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1 03 263 



THE SOX-WEED FACTOR 



by John Barth THE FI-OATINC OPFJRA 

THE KKI> OF XJfcUE ROAJD THJ SOT-'WJeKO FACTOR 



The SOT-WEED 
FACTOR 



BY JOHN EARTH 



DOUBLEDAY & COMPANY, INC., GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK 

1960 



All of the characters in this book 

are fictitious, and any resemblance 

to actual persons, living or dead, 

is purely coincidental. 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Kumber 60-0467 

Copyright <g) i<)6o by John Barth 

All Rights Reserved 

Printed in the United States * Aimnrica 



>esigrt; Charles Kaplan 



CONTENTS 

PART I: THE MOMENTOUS WAGER 



i : The Poet Is Introduced, and Differentiated From His Fellows 13 

2: The Remarkable Manner in Which Ebenezer Was Educated, 
and the No Less Remarkable Results of That Education 15 

3: Ebenezer Is Rescued, and Hears a Diverting Tale Involving 
Isaac Newton and Other Notables 22 

4: Ebenezer's First Sojourn in London, and the Issue of It 36 

5: Ebenezer Commences His Second Sojourn in London, and 
Fares Unspectacularly 51 

6: The Momentous Wager Between Ebenezer and Ben Oliver, 
and Its Uncommon Result 56 

7: The Conversation Between Ebenezer and the Whore Joan 
Toast, Including the Tale of the Great Tom Leech 62 

8: A Colloquy Between Men of Principle, and What Came of It 72 
9: Ebenezer's Audience With Lord Baltimore, and His In- 
genious Proposal to That Gentleman 83 

10: A Brief Relation of the Maryland Palatinate, Its Origins and 
Struggles for Survival, as Told to Ebenezer by His Host 89 

ii : Ebenezer Returns to His Companions, Finds Them Fewer 
by One, Leaves Them Fewer by Another, and Reflects a Reflec- 
tion 108 



[6] 



PART II: GOING TO MALDEN 

i: The Laureate Acquires a Notebook 117 

21 The Laureate Departs From London 128 

3: The Laureate Learns the True Identity of Colonel Peter 
Sayer 139 

4: The Laureate Hears the Tale of Burlingame's Late Adventures 144 
5: Burlingame's Tale Continued, Till Its Teller Falls Asleep 151 

6: Burlingame's Tale Carried Yet Farther; the Laureate Reads 
From The Privie Journdl of Sir Henry Burlingame and Discourses 
on the Nature of Innocence 162 

7: Burlingame's Tale Concluded; the Travelers Arrive at Plym- 
outh ijj 

8: The Laureate Indites a Quatrain and Fouls His Breeches 181 

9: Further Sea-Poetry, Composed in the Stables of the King 
o' the Seas X 86 

10: The Laureate Suffers Literary Criticism and Boards the 
Poseidon jog 

11 : Departure From Albion: the Laureate at Sea 209 

12: The Laureate Discourses on Games of Chance and Debates 
the Relative Gentility of Valets and Poets Laureate. Bertrand 
Sets Forth the Anatomy of Sophistication and Demonstrates His 
Thesis 224 

13: The Laureate, Awash in a Sea of Difficulties, Resolves to Be 
Laureate, Not Before Inditing Final Sea-Couplets 239 

14: The Laureate Is Exposed to Two Assassinations of Character, 
a Piracy, a Near-Deflowering, a Near-Mutiny, a Murder, and 
an Appalling Colloquy Between Captains of the Sea, All Within 
the Space of a Few Pages 255 

15: The Rape of the Cyprian; Also, the Tale of Hicktopeake, King 
of Accomack, and the Greatest Peril the Laureate Has Fallen Into 
Thus Far 



16: The Laureate and Bertrand, Left to Drown, Assume Their 
Niches in the Heavenly Pantheon 286 

17: The Laureate Meets the Anacostin King and Learns the True 
Name of His Ocean Isle 301 

18: The Laureate Pays His Fare to Cross a River 312 

19: The Laureate Attends a Swine-Maiden's Tale 317 

20: The Laureate Attends the Swine-Maiden Herself 327 

21: The Laureate Yet Further Attends the Swine-Maiden 340 

22: No Ground Is Gained Towards the Laureate's Ultimate 
Objective, but Neither Is Any Lost 349 

23: In His Efforts to Get to the Bottom of Things the Laureate 
Comes Within Sight of Maiden, but So- Far From Arriving There, 
Nearly Falls Into the Stars 359 

24: The Travelers Hear About the Singular Martyrdom of Father 
Joseph FitzMaurice, S.J.: a Tale Less Relevant in Appearance 
Than It Will Prove in Fact 366 

25: Further Passages From Captain John Smith's Secret Histo* 
rie of the Voiage Up the Bay of Chesapeake: Dorchester Dis- 
covered, and How the Captain First Set Foot Upon It 387 

26: The Journey to Cambridge, and the Laureate's Conversation 

by the Way 395 

27: The Laureate Asserts That Justice Is Blind, and Armed With 

This Principle, Settles a Litigation 407 

28: If the Laureate Is Adam, Then Burlingame Is the Serpent 420 

29: The Unhappy End of Mynheer Wilhelm Tick, As Related to 
the Laureate by Mary Mungummory, the Traveling Whore o' 
Dorset 427 

30: Having Agreed That Naught Is in Men Save Perfidy, Though 
Not Necessarily That Jus est id quod cliens fecit, the Laureate 
at Last Lays Eyes on His Estate 447 

31: The Laureate Attains Husbandhood at No Expense What- 
ever of His Innocence 462 

32: A Marylandiad Is Brought to Birth, but Its Deliverer Fares 

as Badly as in Any Other Chapter 479 



[8] 

33: The Laureate Departs From His Estate 493 

PART III: MALDEN EARNED 

i: The Poet Encounters a Man With Naught to Lose, and 
Requires Rescuing 57 

2: A Layman's Pandect of Geminology Compended by Henry 
Burlingame, Cosmophilist S 1 ^ 

3: A Colloquy Between Ex-Laureates of Maryland, Relating 
Duly the Trials of Miss Lucy Robotham and Concluding With an 
Assertion Not Lightly Matched for Its Implausibility 529 

4: The Poet Crosses Chesapeake Bay, but Not to His Intended 
Port of Call 543 

5: Confrontations and Absolutions in Limbo 556 

6: His Future at Stake, the Poet Reflects on a Brace of Secular 
Mysteries 575 

7: How the Ahatchwhoops Doe Choose a King Over Them 586 

8: The Fate of Father Joseph FitzMaurice, S.J., Is Further 
Illuminated,, and Itself Illumines Mysteries More Tenebrous and 
Pregnant 600 

9: At Least One of the Pregnant Mysteries Is Brought to Bed, 
With Full Measure of Travail, but Not as Yet Delivered to the 
Light 611 

10 : The Englishing of Billy Rumbly Is Related, Purely From 
Hearsay, by the Traveling Whore o 7 Dorset 622 

11 : The Tale of Billy Rumbly Is Concluded by an Eye-Witness 
to His Englishing. Mary Mungummory Poses the Question, Does 
Essential Savagery Lurk Beneath the Skin of Civilization, or 
Does Essential Civilization Lurk Beneath the Skin of Savagery? 
but Does Not Answer It 638 

12: The Travelers Having Proceeded Northward to Church 
Creek, McEvoy Out-Nobles a Nobleman, and the Poet Finds 
Himself Knighted Willy-Nilly 650 



13: His Majesty's Provincial Wind- and Water-Mill Commis- 
sioners, With Separate Ends in View, Have Recourse on Separate 
Occasions to Allegory 659 

14: Oblivion Is Attained Twice by the Miller's Wife, Once by 
the Miller Himself, and Not at All by the Poet, Who Likens Life 
to a Shameless Playwright 671 

15: In Pursuit of His Manifold Objectives the Poet Meets an 
Unsavaged Savage Husband and an Unenglished English Wife 681 

16: A Sweeping Generalization Is Proposed Regarding the 
Conservation of Cultural Energy, and Demonstrated With the 
Aid of Rhetoric and Inadvertence 696 

17: Having Discovered One Unexpected Relative Already,, the 
Poet Hears the Tale of the Invulnerable Castle and Acquires 
Another 709 

18: The Poet Wonders Whether the Course of Human History 
Is a Progress, a Drama, a Retrogression, a Cycle, an Undulation, 
a Vortex, a Right- or Left-Handed Spiral, a Mere Continuum, or 
What Have You. Certain Evidence Is Brought Forward, but of an 
Ambiguous and Inconclusive Nature 725 

19: The Poet Awakens From His Dream of Hell to be Judged in 

Life by Rhadamanthus 744 

20: The Poet Commences His Day in Court 760 

21: The Poet Earns His Estate 774 



PART IV: THE AUTHOR APOLOGIZES TO HIS 

READERS; THE LAUREATE COMPOSES HIS EPITAPH 791 



PART I: THE MOMENTOUS WAGER 



i: THE POET IS INTRODUCED, AND 
DIFFERENTIATED FROM HIS FELLOWS 



IN THE LAST YEARS OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY THERE WAS TO BE 

found among the fops and fools of the London coffee-houses one rangy, 
gangling flitch called Ebenezer Cooke, more ambitious than talented, and 
yet more talented than prudent, who, like his friends-in-folly, all of whom 
were supposed to be educating at Oxford or Cambridge, had found the 
sound of Mother English more fun to game with than her sense to labor 
over, and so rather than applying himself to the pains of scholarship, had 
learned the knack of versifying, and ground out quires of couplets after 
the fashion of the day, afroth with Joves and Jupiters, aclang with jarring 
rhymes, and string-taut with similes stretched to the snapping-point. 

As poet, this Ebenezer was not better nor worse than his fellows, none 
of whom left behind him anything nobler than his own posterity; but four 
things marked him off from them. The first was his appearance: pale-haired 
and pale-eyed, raw-boned and gaunt-cheeked, he stood nay, angled nine- 
teen hands high. His clothes were good stuff well tailored, but they hung on 
his frame like luffed sails on long spars. Heron of a man, lean-limbed and 
long-billed, he walked and sat with loose-jointed poise; his every stance 
was angular surprise, his each gesture half flail. Moreover there was a 
discomposure about his face, as though his features got on ill together: 
heron's beak, wolf-hound's forehead, pointed chin, lantern jaw, wash-blue 
eyes, and bony blond brows had minds of their own, went their own ways, 
and took up odd stances. They moved each independent of the rest and 
fell into new configurations, which often as not had no relation to what one 
took as his mood of the moment. And these configurations were shortlived, 
for like restless mallards the features of his face no sooner were settled than 
ha! they'd be flushed, and hi! how they'd flutter, every man for himself, 
and no man could say what lay behind them. 

The second was his age: whereas most of his accomplices were scarce 
turned twenty, Ebenezer at the time of this chapter was more nearly 



[ i A ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

thirty, yet not a whit more wise than they, and with six or seven years' 
less excuse for sharing their folly. 

The third was his origin: Ebenezer was born American, though he'd not 
seen his birthplace since earliest childhood. His father, Andrew Cooke 2nd, 
of the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields, County of Middlesex a red-faced, 
white-chopped, stout-winded old lecher with flinty eye and withered arm 
had spent his youth in Maryland as agent for a British manufacturer, as 
had his father before him, and having a sharp eye for goods and a sharper 
for men, had added to the Cooke estate by the time he was thirty some 
one thousand acres of good wood and arable land on the Choptank River. 
The point on which this land lay he called Cooke's Point, and the small 
manor-house he built there, Maiden. He married late in life and con- 
ceived twin children, Ebenezer and his sister Anna, whose mother (as if 
such an inordinate casting had cracked the mold) died bearing them. 
When the twins were but four Andrew returned to England, leaving Maiden 
in the hands of an overseer, and thenceforth employed himself as a 
merchant, sending his own factors to the plantations. His affairs prospered, 
and the children were well provided for. 

The fourth thing that distinguished Ebenezer from his coffee-house 
associates was his manner: though not one of them was blessed with more 
talent than he needed, all of Ebenezer's friends put on great airs when 
together, declaiming their verses, denigrating all the well-known poets of 
their time (and any members of their own circle who happened to be not 
not on hand), boasting of their amorous conquests and their prospects 
for imminent success, and otherwise behaving in a manner such that, had 
not every other table in the coffee-house sported a like ring of cox- 
combs, they'd have made great nuisances of themselves. But Ebenezer 
himself, though his appearance rendered inconspicuousness out of the 
question, was bent to taciturnity and undemonstrativeness. He was 
even chilly. Except for infrequent bursts of garrulity he rarely joined in 
the talk, but seemed content for the most part simply to watch the other 
birds preen their feathers. Some took this withdrawal as a sign of his 
contempt, and so were either intimidated or angered by it, according to 
the degree of their own self-confidence. Others took it for modesty; others 
for shyness; others for artistic or philosophical detachment. Had it been in 
fact symptom of any one of these, there would be no tale to tell; in truth, 
however, this manner of our poet's grew out of something much more 
complicated, which well warrants recounting his childhood, his adventures, 
and his ultimate demise. 



2: THE REMARKABLE MANNER IN WHICH 
EBENEZER WAS EDUCATED, AND THE NO LESS 
REMARKABLE RESULTS OF THAT EDUCATION 



EBENEZER AND ANNA HAD BEEN RAISED TOGETHER. THERE HAPPENING TO 

be no other children on the estate in St. Giles, they grew up with no 
playmates except each other, and hence became unusually close. They 
always played the same games together and were educated in the same 
subjects, since Andrew was wealthy enough to provide them with a tutor, 
but not with separate tutoring. Until the age of ten they even shared the 
same bedroom not that space was lacking either in Andrew's London 
house, on Plumtree Street, or in the later establishment at St. Giles, but 
because Andrew's old housekeeper, Mrs. Twigg, who was for some years 
their governess, had in the beginning been so taken with the fact of their 
twinship that she'd made a point of keeping them together, and then 
later, when their increased size and presumed awareness began to embarrass 
her, they- had come so to enjoy each other's company that she was for a 
time unable to resist their combined protests at any mention of separate 
chambers. When the separation was finally effected, at Andrew's orders, 
it was merely to adjoining rooms, between which the door was normally 
left open to allow for conversation. 

In the light of all this it is not surprising that even after puberty there was 
little difference, aside from the physical manifestations of their sex, between 
the two children. Both were lively, intelligent, and well-behaved. Anna was 
the less timid of the two (though neither was especially adventuresome), 
and even when Ebenezer naturally grew to be the taller and physically 
stronger, Anna was still the quicker and better coordinated, and therefore 
usually the winner in the games they played: shuttlecock, fives, or ptilk 
maille; squails, Meg Merrilies, jackstraws, or shove ha'penny. Both were 
avid readers, and loved the same books: among the classics, the Odyssey 
and Ovid's Metamorphoses, the Boofe of Martyrs and the Lives of the 
Saints; the romances of Valentine and Orson, Bevis of Hampton, and 
Guy of Warwick; the tales of Robin Good-Fellow, Patient Grisel, and the 
Foundlings in the Wood; and among the newer books, Janeway's Token 
for Children, Batchiler's Virgins Pattern, and Fisher's Wise Virgin, as well 



[ l6 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

as Cacoethes Leaden Legacy, The Young Mans Warning-Peece, The Booke 
of Mery Kiddles, and, shortly after their publication, Pilgrims Progress 
and Keach's War with the Devil. Perhaps had Andrew been less preoccupied 
with his merchant-trading, or Mrs. Twigg with her religion, her gout, 
and her authority over the other servants, Anna would have been kept to 
her dolls and embroidery-hoops, and Ebenezer set to mastering the arts 
of hunting and fencing. But they were seldom subjected to any direction 
at all, and hence drew small distinction between activities proper for little 
girls and those proper for little boys. 

Their favorite recreation was play-acting. Indoors or out, hour after hour, 
they played at pirates, soldiers, clerics, Indians, royalty, giants, martyrs, lords 
and ladies, or any other creatures that took their fancy, inventing action 
and dialogue as they played. Sometimes they would maintain the same role 
for days, sometimes only for minutes. Ebenezer, especially, became ingen- 
ious at disguising his assumed identity in the presence of adults, while still 
revealing it clearly enough to Anna, to her great delight, by some 
apparently innocent gesture or remark. They might spend an autumn 
morning playing at Adam and Eve out in the orchard, for example, 
and when at dinner their father forbade them to return there, on account 
of the mud, Ebenezer would reply with a knowing nod, "Mud's not the 
worst oft: I saw a snake as well." And little Anna,, when she ha8 got her 
breath back, would declare, "It didn't frighten me, but Eben's forehead 
hath been sweating ever since," and pass her brother the bread. At night, 
both before and after their separation into two rooms, they would either 
continue to make-believe (necessarily confining themselves to dialogue,, 
which they found it easy to carry on in the dark) or else play word-games; of 
these they had a great variety, ranging from the simple "How many words do 
you know beginning with S?" or "How many words rhyme with faster?" to 
the elaborate codes, reverse pronunciations, and home-made languages of 
their later childhood, which, when spoken in Andrew's presence, set him 
into a thundering rage. 

In 1676, when they were ten, Andrew employed for them a new tutor 
named Henry Burlingame III a wiry, brown-eyed, swarthy youth in his 
early twenties, energetic, intense, and not at all unhandsome. This 
Burlingame had for reasons unexplained not completed his baccalaureate; 
yet for the range and depth of his erudition and abilities he was little short 
of an Aristotle. Andrew had found him in London unemployed and un- 
dernourished, and, always a good businessman, was thus for a miserly fee 
able to provide his children with a tutor who could sing the tenor in a 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ IJ ] 

Gesualdo madrigal as easily as he dissected a field-mouse or conjugated dp.L 
The twins took an immediate liking to him, and he in turn, after only a 
few weeks, grew so attached to them that he was overjoyed when Andrew 
permitted him, at no increase in salary, to convert the little summer-pavilion 
on the grounds of the St. Giles estate into a combination laboratory and 
living-quarters, and devote his entire attention to his charges. 

He found both to be rapid learners, especially apt in natural philosophy, 
literature, composition, and music; less so in languages, mathematics, and 
history. He even taught them how to dance, though Ebenezer by age 
twelve was already too ungainly to do it well and took small pleasure in 
it. First he would teach Ebenezer to play the melody on the harpsichord; 
then he would drill Anna in the steps, to Ebenezer's accompaniment, 
until she mastered them; next he would take Ebenezer's place at the 
instrument so that Anna could teach her brother the steps; and finally, 
when the dance was learned, Ebenezer would help Anna master the tune on 
the harpsichord. Aside from its obvious efficiency, this system was in keeping 
with the second of Master Burlingame's three principles of pedagogy; to 
wit, that one learns a thing best by teaching it. The first was that of the three 
usual motives for learning things necessity, ambition, and curiosity 
simple curiosity was the worthiest of development, it being the "purest" 
(in that the value of what it drives us to learn is terminal rather than 
instrumental) , the most conducive to exhaustive and continuing rather than 
cursory or limited study, and the likeliest to render pleasant the labor of 
learning. The third principle, closely related to the others, was that this 
sport of teaching and learning should never become associated with 
certain hours or particular places, lest student and teacher alike (and in 
Burlingame's system they were very much alike) fall into the vulgar habit 
of turning off their alertness,, as it were, except at those times and in those 
places, and thus make by implication a pernicious distinction between 
learning and other sorts of natural human behavior. 

The twins' education, then, went on from morning till night. Burlin- 
game joined readily in their play-acting, and had he dared ask leave would 
have slept with them as well, to guide their word-games. If his system 
lacked the discipline of John Locke's, who would have all students soak 
their feet in cold water, it was a good deal more fun: Ebenezer and Anna 
loved their teacher, and the three were inseparable companions. To 
teach them history he directed their play-acting to historical events: 
Ebenezer would be Little John, perhaps, and Anna Friar Tuck, or Anna 
St. Ursula and Ebenezer the Fifty Thousand Virgins; to sustain their 



[ l8 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

interest in geography he produced volumes of exotic pictures and tales of 
adventure; to sharpen their logical equipment he ran them through Zeno's 
paradoxes as one would ask riddles, and rehearsed them in Descartes's 
skepticism as gaily as though the search for truth and value in the universe 
were a game of Who's Got the Button. He taught them to wonder at 
a leaf of thyme, a line of Palestrina, the configuration of Cassiopeia, the 
scales of a pilchard, the sound of indefatigable, the elegance of a sorites. 

The result of this education was that the twins grew quite enamored of 
the world especially Ebenezer, for Anna, from about her thirteenth 
birthday, began to grow more demure and less demonstrative. But Ebenezer 
could be moved to shivers by the swoop of a barn-swallow, to cries of 
laughter at the lace of a cobweb or the roar of an organ's pedal-notes, and 
to sudden tears by the wit of Volpone, the tension of a violin-box, or 
the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem. By age eighteen he had reached 
his full height and ungainliness; he was a nervous, clumsy youth who, though 
by this time he far excelled his sister in imaginativeness, was much her 
inferior in physical beauty, for though as twins they shared nearly identical 
features, Nature saw fit, by subtle alterations, to turn Anna into a lovely 
young woman and Ebenezer into a goggling scarecrow, just as a clever 
author may, by the most delicate adjustments, make a ridiculous parody of 
a beautiful style. 

It is a pity that Burlingame could not accompany Ebenezer when, at 
eighteen, the boy made ready to matriculate at Cambridge, for though a 
good teacher will teach well regardless of the pedagogical theory he suffers 
from, and though Burlingame's might seem to have been an unusually 
attractive one, yet there is no perfect educational system, and it must be 
admitted that at least partly because of his tutoring Ebenezer took quite 
the same sort of pleasure in history as in Greek mythology and epic poetry, 
and made little or no distinction between, say, the geography of the atlases 
and that of fairy-stories. In short, because learning had been for him such 
a pleasant game, he could not regard the facts of zoology or the Norman 
Conquest, for example, with any genuine seriousness^ nor could he dis- 
cipline himself to long labor at tedious tasks. Even his great imagination 
and enthusiasm for the world were not unalloyed virtues when combined 
with his gay irresolution, for though they led him to a great sense of the 
arbitrariness of the particular real world, they did not endow him with a 
corresponding realization of its finality. He very well knew, for instance, 
that "France is shaped like a teapot," but he could scarcely accept the 
fact that there was actually in existence at that instant such a place 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [19] 

as France, where people were speaking French and eating snails whether 
he thought about them or not, and that despite the virtual infinitude 
of imaginable shapes, this France would have to go on resembling a 
teapot forever. And again, though the whole business of Greece and Rome 
was unquestionably delightful, he found the notion preposterous, almost 
unthinkable, that this was the only way it happened: that made him 
nervous and irritable, when he thought of it at all. 

Perhaps with continued guidance from his tutor he could in time have 
overcome these failings, but one morning in July of 1684 Andrew simply 
announced at breakfast, "No need to go to the summer-house today, 
Ebenezer. Thy lessons are done/' 

Both children looked up in surprise. 

"Do you mean, sir, that Henry will be leaving us?" Ebenezer asked. 

"I do indeed," Andrew replied. "In fact, if I be not greatly in error he 
hath already departed." 

"But how is that? With never a fare-thee-well? He spoke not a word of 
leaving us!" 

"Gently, now," said Andrew. "Will ye weep for a mere schoolmaster? 
'Twas this week or the next, was't not? Thou'rt done with him." 

"Did you know aught oft?" Ebenezer demanded of Anna. She shook 
her head and fled from the room. "You ordered him off, Father?" he asked 
incredulously. "Why such suddenness?" 

" 'Dslife!" cried Andrew. "At your age I'd sooner have drunk him good 
riddance than raised such a bother! The fellow's work was done and I 
sacked him, and there's an end on't! If he saw fit to leave at once 'tis his 
affair. I must say 'twas a more manly thing than all this hue and cry!" 

Ebenezer went at once to the summer-pavilion. Almost everything was 
there exactly as it had been before: a half-dissected frog lay pinned out 
upon its beech-board on the work-table; books and papers were spread open 
on the writing-desk; even the teapot stood half-full on the grate. But 
Burlingame was indeed gone. While Ebenezer was looking about in 
disbelief Anna joined him, wiping her eyes. 

"Dear Henry!" Ebenezer lamented, his own eyes brimming. " 'Tis like a 
bolt from Heaven! Whatever shall we do without him?" 

Anna made no reply, but ran to her brother and embraced him. 

For this reason or another, then, when not long afterwards Ebenezer 
bade good-bye to his father and Anna and established himself in Magdalene 
College, at Cambridge, he proved a poor student. He would go to fetch 
Newton's lectures De Motu Corporum from the library, and would 



[20] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

spend four hours reading Esquemeling's History of the Buccaneers instead, 
or some Latin bestiary. He took part in few pranks or sports, made few 
friends, and went virtually unnoticed by his professors. 

It was during his second year of study that,, though he did not realize 
it at the time, he was sore bit by the muse's gadfly. Certainly he did not 
at the time think of himself as a poet, but it got so that after hearing his 
teachers argue subtly and at length against, say, philosophical materialism, 
he would leave the lecture-hall with no more in his notebook than: 

Old Plato sow both Mind and Matter; 
Thomas Hobbes, naught but the latter. 
Now poor Tom's Soul doth fry in Hell: 
Shrugs GOD, " Tis immaterial:' 

or: 

Source of Virtue, Truth, and All is 
Each Man's Lumen Naturalis. 

As might be expected, the more this divine affliction got hold of him, 
the more his studies suffered. The sum of history became in his head no 
more than the stuff of metaphors. Of the philosophers of his era Bacon, 
Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Locke he learned little; of its 
scientists Kepler, Galileo, Newton less; of its theologians Lord Her- 
bert, Cudworth, More, Smith, Glanvill nothing. But Paradise Lost he 
knew inside out; Hudibras upside down. At the end of the third year, to his 
great distress, he failed a number of examinations and had to face the 
prospect of leaving the University. Yet what to do? He could not bear the 
thought of returning to St. Giles and telling his f ormidable father, he would 
have to absent himself quietly, disappear from sight, and seek his fortune 
in the world at large. But in what manner? 

Here, in his difficulty with this question, the profoundest effects of 
Burlingame's amiable pedagogy become discernible: Ebenezefs imagina- 
tion was excited by every person he met either in or out of books who could 
do with skill and understanding anything whatever; he was moved to ready 
admiration by expert falconers, scholars, masons, chimneysweeps, pros- 
titutes, admirals, cutpurses, sailmakers, barmaids, apothecaries, and can- 
noneers alike. 

Aft, God, he wrote in a letter to Anna about this time, it were an easy 
Matter to choose a Calling, had one all Time to live in! I should be fifty 
Years a Barrister, fifty a Physician, fifty a Clergyman, -fifty a Soldier! Aye, 
and fifty a Thief, and fifty a Judge! All Roads are fine Roads, beloved 
Sister, none more than another, so that with one Life to spend lama Man 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 21 ] 

bare-bumrrid at Taylors with Cash for but one pair of Breeches, or a 
Scholar at Bookstalls with Money for a single Book: to choose ten were no 
Trouble; to choose one, impossible! All Trades, all Crafts, all Professions are 
wondrous, but none is finer than the rest together. I cannot choose, sweet 
Anna: twixt Stools my Breech falleth to the Ground! 

He was, that is to say, temperamentally disinclined to no career, and, 
what is worse (as were this not predicament enough ) , he seemed consistently 
no special sort of person: the variety of temperaments and characters that 
he observed at Cambridge and in literature was as enchanting to him as the 
variety of life-works, and as hard to choose from among. He admired 
equally the sanguine, the phlegmatic, the choleric, the melancholic, the 
splenetic, and the balanced man, the fool and the sage, the enthusiast and 
the stick-in-the-mud, the talkative and the taciturn, and, most dilemmal of 
all, the consistent and the inconsistent. Similarly, it seemed to him as fine 
a thing to be fat as to be lean, to be short as tall, homely as handsome. 
To complete his quandary what is probably an effect of the foregoing 
Ebenezer could be persuaded, at least notionally, by any philosophy of the 
world, even by any strongly held opinion, which was either poetically 
conceived or attractively stated,, since he appeared to be emotionally 
predisposed in favor of none. It was as pretty a notion to him that the 
world was made of water, as Thales declared, as that it was air, i la 
Anaximines, or fire, & la Heraclitus, or all three and dirt to boot, as swore 
Empedocles; that all was matter, as Hobbes maintained, or that all was 
mind, as some of Locke's followers were avowing, seemed equally likely to 
our poet, and as for ethics, could he have been all three and not just one 
he'd have enjoyed dying once a saint, once a frightful sinner, and once 
lukewarm between the two. 

The man (in short), thanks both to Burlingame and to his natural pro- 
clivities, was dizzy with the beauty of the possible; dazzled, he threw up 
his hands at choice, and like ungainly flotsam rode half-content the tide of 
chance. Though the term was done he stayed on at Cambridge. For a week 
he simply languished in his rooms, reading distractedly and smoking pipe 
after pipe of tobacco, to which he'd become addicted. At length reading 
became impossible; smoking too great a bother: he prowled restlessly about 
the room. His head always felt about to ache, but never began to. 

Finally one day he did not deign even to dress himself or eat, but sat 
immobile in the window seat in his nightshirt and stared at the activity in 
the street below, unable to choose a motion at all even when, some hours 
later, his untutored bladder suggested one. 



<* ?: EBENEZER IS RESCUED, AND HEARS A DIVERTING 
TALE INVOLVING ISAAC NEWTON AND OTHER 
NOTABLES 



LUCKILY FOR HIM (ELSE HE MIGHT HAVE MOSSED OVER WHERE HE SAl), 

Ebenezer was roused from his remarkable trance shortly after dinnertime 
by a sudden great commotion at his door. 

"Eben! Eben! Prithee admit me quicldy!" 

"Who is it?" called Ebenezer, and jumped up in alarm: he had no friends 
at the College who might be calling on him, 

"Open and see," the visitor laughed. "Only hurry, I beg of thee!" 

"Do but wait a minute. I must dress." 

"What? Not dressed? 'Swounds, what an idle fellow! No matter, boy; 
let me in at once!" 

Ebenezer recognized the voice, which he'd not heard for three years. 
"Henry!" he cried, and threw open the door. 

"Tis no other," laughed Burlingame, giving him a squeeze. "Marry, 
what a lout thou'rt grown to! A good six feet! And abed at this hour!" He 
felt the young man's forehead. "Yet you've no fever. What ails thee, lad? 

Ah well, no matter. One moment " He ran to the window and peered 

cautiously below. "Ah, there's the rascal! Hither, Eben!" 

Ebenezer hurried to the window. "Whatever is't?" 

"Yonder, yonder!" Burlingame pointed up the street. "Coming by the 
little dram-shop! Know you that gentleman with the hickory-stick?" 

Ebenezer saw a long-faced man of middle age, gowned as a don, making 
his way down the street. 

"Nay, 'tis no Magdalene Fellow. The face is strange/' 

"Shame on thee, then, and mark it well. 'Tis Isa^c himself, from 
Trinity." 

"Newton!" Ebenezer looked with sharper interest. "I've not seen him 
before, but word hath it the Royal Society is bringing out a book of his 
within the month that will explain the workings of the entire universe! 
Ffaith, I thank you for your haste! But did I hear you call him rased?" 

Burlingame laughed again, "You mistake the reason for my haste, Eben. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [23] 

I pray God my face hath altered these fifteen years, for I'm certain Brother 
Isaac caught sight of me ere I reached your entryway." 

"Is 7 t possible you know him?" asked Ebenezer, much impressed. 

"Know him? I was once near raped by him. Stay!" He drew back from 
the window. "Keep an eye on him, and tell me how I might escape should 
he turn in at your door." 

"No difficulty: the door of this chamber lets onto an open stairway in 
the rear. What in Heav'n's afoot, Henry?" 

"Don't be alarmed/' Burlingame said. " Tis a pretty story, and I'll tell 
it all presently. Is he coming?" 

"One moment he's just across from us. There. Nay, wait now he is 
saluting another don. Old Bagley, the Latinist. There, now, he's moving on." 

Burlingame came to the window, and the two of them watched the great 
man continue up the street. 

"Not another moment, Henry," Ebenezer declared. "Tell me at once 
what mystery is behind this hide-and-seek, and behind thy cruel haste to 
leave us three years past, or watch me perish of curiosity!" 

"Aye and I shall," Burlingame replied, "directly you dress yourself, lead 
us to food and drink, and give full account of yourself. 'Tis not I alone 
who have excuses to find." 

"How! Then you know of my failure?" 

"Aye, and came to see what's what, and perchance to birch some sense 
into you." 

"But how can that be? I told none but Anna." 

"Stay, you'll hear all, I swear't. But not a word till I've a spread of 
sack and mutton. Let not excitement twist thy values, lad come on with 
you!" 

"Ah, bless you, thou'rt an Iliad Greek, Henry," Ebenezer said, and 
commenced dressing. 

They went to an inn nearby, where over small beer after dinner 
Ebenezer explained, as best he could, his failure at the College and 
subsequent indecisions. "The heart oft seems to be," he concluded, "that 
in no matter of import can I make up by mind. The moment I grow sensible 
that I must choose, I see such virtues in each alternative that none outshines 
the rest. Marry, Henry, how I've needed thy counsell What agonies you 
might have saved me!" 

"Nay," Burlingame protested. "You well know I love you, Eben, and 
feel your afflictions as my own. But advice, I swear't, is the wrong medicine 
for your malady, for two reasons: first, the logic of the problem is such 



[24] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

that at some remove or other you'd have still to choose, inasmuch as should 
I counsel you to come with me to London, you yet must choose whether to 
follow my counsel; and should I farther counsel you to follow my first 
counsel, you must yet choose to follow my second the regress is infinite 
and goes nowhere. Second, e'en could you choose to follow my counsel, 
'tis no cure at all, but a mere crutch to lean upon. The object is to put you 
on your feet, not to take you off them. Tis a serious affair, Eben; it troubles 
me. What are your own sentiments about your failure?" 

"I must own I have none/' Ebenezer said, "though I can fancy many/' 

"And this indecision: how do you feel about yourself?" 

"Marry, I know not! I suppose I'm merely curious." 

Burlingame frowned and called for a pipe of tobacco from a wine- 
drawer working near at hand. "You were indeed the picture of apathy 
when I found you. Doth it not gall or grieve you to lose the baccalaureate, 
when you'd approached so near it?" 

"In a manner, I suppose," Ebenezer smiled. "And yet the man I most 
respect hath got on without it, hath he not?" 

Burlingame laughed. "My dear fellow, I see 'tis time I told you many 
things. Will it comfort you to learn that I, too, suffer from your disease, and 
have since childhood?" 

"Nay, that cannot be," Ebenezer said. "Ne'er have I seen thee falter, 
Henry: thou'rt the very antithesis of indecision! Tis to you I look in envy, 
and despair of e'er attaining such assurance." 

"Let me be your hope, not your despair, for just as a mild siege of 
smallpox, though it scar a man's face, leaves him safe forever from dying of 
that ailment, so inconstancy, fickleness, a periodic shifting of enthusiasms, 
though a vice, may preserve a man from crippling indecision." 

"Fickleness, Henry?" Ebenezer asked in wonderment. "Is't fickleness 
explains your leaving us?" 

"Not in the sense you take it," Burlingame said. He fetched out a shilling 
and called for two more tankards of beer. "I say, did you know I was an 
orphan child?" 

"Why, yes," Ebenezer said, surprised. "Now you mention it, I believe I 

did though I can't recall your ever telling us. Haply we just assumed it. 

taith Henry, all the years we've known you, and yet in sooth we know 

naught of you, do we? I've no idea when you were bom, or where reared, 

or by whom." 

"Or why I left ycm , discourteously, or how I learned of your 
failure, or why I fled the great Mister Newton," Burlingame added. "Very 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

well then, take a draught with me, and I shall uncloak the mystery- There's 
a good fellow!" 

They drank deeply, and Burlingame began his story. 

"I've not the faintest notion where I was born, or even when though it 
must have been about 1654. Much less do I know what woman bore me, 
or what man got me on her. I was raised by a Bristol sea-captain and his 
wife, who were childless, and 'tis my suspicion I was born in either America 
or the West Indies, for my earliest memories are of an ocean passage when 
I was no more than three years old. Their name was Salmon Avery and 
Melissa Salmon." 

"I am astonished!" Ebenezer declared. "I ne'er dreamed aught so 
extraordinary of your beginnings! How came you to be called Burlingame, 
then?" 

Burlingame sighed. "Ah, Eben, just as till now you've been incurious 
about my origin, so till too late was I. Burlingame I've been since earliest 
memory, and, as is the way of children, it ne'er occurred to me to wonder at 
it, albeit to this day I've met no other of that surname." 

"It must be that whomever Captain Salmon received you from was your 
parent!" Ebenezer said. "Or haply 'twas some kin of yours, that knew your 
name." 

"Dear Eben, think you I've not racked myself upon that chance? Think 
you I'd not forfeit a hand for five minutes' converse with my poor 
Captain, or gentle Melissa? But I must put by my curiosity till Judgment 
Day, for they both are in their graves." 

"Unlucky fellow!" 

"All through my childhood," Burlingame went on, " 'twas my single aim 
to go to sea, like Captain Salmon. Boats were my only toys; sailors my only 
playmates. On my thirteenth birthday I shipped as messboy on the 
Captain's vessel, a West Indiaman, and so taken was I by the mariner's life 
that I threw my heart and soul into my apprenticeship. Ere we raised 
Barbados I was scrambling aloft with the best of 'em, to take in a stuns'l or 
tar the standing rigging, and was as handy with a fid as any Jack aboard. 
Eben, Eben, what a life for a lad e'en now it shivers me to think on't! 
Brown as a coffee-bean I was, and agile as a monkey, and ere my voice had 
left off changing, ere my parts were fully haired at an age when most boys 
have still the smell of the womb on 'em, and dream of traveling to the 
neighboring shire I had dived for sheepswool sponges on the Great 
Bahaman Banks and fought with pirates in the Gulf of Paria. What's more, 
after guarding my innocence in the fo'c'sle with a fishknife from a lecherous 



[26] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

old Manxman who'd offered two pounds for't, I swam a mile through 
shark-water from our mooring off Curasao to squander it one August night 
with a mulatto girl upon the beach. She was scarce thirteen, Eben half 
Dutch, half Indian, lissome and trembly as an eight-month colt but on 
receipt of a little brass spyglass of mine, which she'd taken a great 'fancy 
to in the village that morning, she fetched up her skirts with a laugh, and 
I deflowered her under the sour-orange trees. I was not yet fifteen." 

"Gramercy!" 

"No man e'er loved his trade more than I," Burlingame continued, "nor 
slaved at it more diligently; I was the apple of the Captain's eye, and would, 
I think,, have risen fast through the ranks." 

"Then out on't, Henry, how is't you claim my failing? For I see naught 
in thy tale here but a staggering industry and singlemindedness, the half of 
which Fd lose an ear to equal." 

Burlingame smiled and drank off the last of his beer. "Inconstancy, dear 
fellow, inconstancy. That same singlemindedness that raised me o'er the 
other lads on the ship was the ruin of my nautical career." 

"How can that be?" 

"I made five voyages in all," Burlingame said. "On the fifth the same 
voyage on which I lost my virginity we lay becalmed one day in the horse 
latitudes off the Canary Islands, and quite by chance, looking about for 
something wherewith to occupy myself, I happened on a copy of Motteux's 
Don Quixote among a shipmate's effects; I spent the remainder of the 
day with it, for though Mother Salmon had taught me to read and write, 
'twas the first real storybook I'd read. I grew so entranced by the great 
Manchegan and his faithful squire as to lose all track of time and was 
rebuked by Captain Salmon for reporting late to the cook. 

"From that day on I was no longer a seaman, but a student. I read every 
book I could find aboard ship and in port bartered my clothes, mortgaged 
my pay for books, on any subject whatever, and reread them over and over 
when no new ones could be found. All else went by the board; what work I 
could be made to do I did distractedly, and in careless haste. I took to 
hiding, in the rope-locker or the lazarette, where I could read for an hour 
undisturbed ere I was found. Finally Captain Salmon could tolerate it no 
more: he ordered the mate to confiscate every volume aboard, save only 
the charts, the ship's log, and the navigational tables, and pitched 'em to 
the sharks off Port-au-Prince; then he gave me such a hiding for my sins 
that my poor bum tingled a fortnight after, and forbade me e'er to read a 
printed page aboard his vessel. This so thwarted and aggrieved me, that at 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2J ] 

the next port (which happened to be Liverpool) I jumped ship and left 
career and benefactor forever, with not a thank-ye nor a fare-thee-well for 
the people who'd fed and clothed me since babyhood. 

"I had no money at all, and for food only a great piece of hard cheese I'd 
stolen from the ship's cook: therefore I very soon commenced to starve. 
I took to standing on streetcorners and singing for my supper: I was a pretty 
lad and knew many a song, and when I would sing What Thing is Love? 
to the ladies, or A Pretty Duck There Was to the gentlemen, 'twas not 
often they'd pass me by without a smile and tuppence. At length a band 
of wandering gypsies, traveling down from Scotland to London, heard me 
sing and invited me to join them, and so for the next year I worked and 
lived with those curious people. They were tinkers, horse-traders, fortune- 
tellers, basket-makers, dancers, troubadours, and thieves. I dressed in their 
fashion, ate, drank, and slept with them, and they taught me all their 
songs and tricks. Dear Eben! Had you seen me then, you'd ne'er have 
doubted for an instant I was one of them!" 

"I am speechless," Ebenezer declared. "Tis the grandest adventure I 
have heard!" 

"We worked our way slowly, with many digressions, from Liverpool 
through Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, and Bedford, sleep- 
ing in the wagons when it rained or out under the stars on fine nights. In 
the troupe of thirty souls I was the only one who read and wrote, and so was 
of great assistance to them in many ways. Once to their great delight I 
read them tales out of Boccaccio they all love to tell and hear stories 
and they were so surprised to learn that books contain such marvelous 
pleasantries, a thing which erst they'd not suspected, that they began to 
steal every book they could find for me: I seldom lacked reading that year! 
It happened one day they turned up a primer, and I taught the lot of 'em 
their letters, for which services they were unimaginably grateful. Despite 
my being a 'gorgio' (by which name they call non-gypsies) they initiated 
me into their most privy matters and expressed the greatest desire for me to 
marry into their group and travel with them forever. 

"But late in 1670 we arrived here in Cambridge,, having wandered down 
from Bedford, The students and several of the dons took a great fancy 
to us, and though they made too free with sundry of our women, they 
treated us most cordially, even bringing us to their rooms to sing and play 
for them. Thus were my eyes first opened to the world of learning and 
scholarship, and I knew on the instant that my interlude with the gypsies 
was done. I resolved to go no farther: I bid adieu to my companions and 



[28] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

remained in Cambridge, determined to starve upon the street-corners rather 
than leave this magnificent place." 

"Marry, Henry!" Ebenezer said. "Thy courage brings me nigh to weep- 
ing! What did you then?" 

"Why, so soon as my belly commenced to rumble I stopped short where 
I was (which happened to be over by Christ's College) and broke into 
Flow My Tears, it being of all the songs I knew the most plaintive. And 
when I had done with the last verse of it 

Hark! yon Shadows that in Darkness dwell, 
Learn jo contemn Light. 
Happy, happy they that in Hell 
Feel not the World's Despite. 

when I had done, I say, there appeared at a nearby window a lean frown- 
ing don, who enquired of me, 'What manner of Cainite was I, that I 
counted them happy who must fry forever in the fires of Hell? And another, 
who came to the window beside him, a fat wight, asked me, Did I not 
know where I was? To which I answered, 'I know no more, good masters, 
than that I am in Cambridge Town and like to. perish of my belly!' Then 
the first don, who all unbeknownst to me was having a merry time at my 
expense, told me I was in Christ's College, and that he and all his fellows 
were powerful divines, and that for lesser blasphemies than mine they had 
caused men to be broke upon the wheel. I was a mere sixteen then, and 
not a little alarmed, for though I'd read enough scarce to credit their story, 
yet I knew not but what they could work me some injury or other, e'en 
were't something short of the wheel. Therefore I humbly craved their par- 
don, and pled 'twas but an idle song, the words of which I scarce attended; 
so that were there aught of blasphemy in't, 'twas not the singer should 
be racked for't but the author, John Dowland, who being long since dead, 
must needs already have had the sin rendered out of him in Satan's try- 
works, and there's an end on't! At this methinks the merry dons had like 
to laugh aloud, but they put on sterner faces yet and ordered me into their 
chamber. There they farther chastised me, maintaining that while my first 
offense had been grievous enough, in its diminution of the torments of 
Hell, this'last remark of mine had on't the very smell of the stake. 'How 
is that?' I asked them. 'Why,' the lean one cried, 'to hold as you do that 
they who perpetuate another's sin, albeit witlessly, are themselves blameless, 
is to deny the doctrine of Original Sin itself, for who are Eve and Adam 
but the John Dowlands of us all, whose sinful song all humankind must 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 29 ] 

sing willy-nilly and die for't?' 'What is more/ the fat don declared, 'in 
denying the mystery of Original Sin you scorn as well the mystery of 
Vicarious Atonement for where's the sense of Salvation for them that 
are not lost?' 

" 'Nay, nay!' said I, and commenced to sniffling. 'Marry, masters, 'twas 
but an idle observation! Prithee take no notice oft!' 

"'An idle observation!' the first replied,, and laid hold of my arms. 
'Swounds, boy! You scoff at the two cardinal mysteries of the Church, 
which like twin pillars bear the entire edifice of Christendom; you as much 
as call the Crucifixion a vulgar Mayfair show; and to top all you regard 
such unspeakable blasphemies as idle observations! Tis a more horrendous 
sin yet! Whence came thee here, anyhow?' 

" 'From Bedford/ I replied, frightened near out of my wits, 'with a band 
of gypsies/ On hearing this the dons feigned consternation, and declared 
that every year at this time the gypsies passed through Cambridge for the 
sole purpose, since they are heathen to a man, of working some hurt on 
the divines. Only the year before, they said, one of my cohorts had sneaked 
privily into the Trinity brew-house and poisoned a vat of beer, with the 
result that three Senior Fellows, four Scholars, and a brace of idle Sizars 
were done to death ere sundown. Then they asked me, What was my 
design? And when I told them I had hoped to attach myself to one of 
their number as a serving-boy,' the better to improve my mind, they made 
out I was come to poison the lot of 'em. So saying, they stripped me naked 
on the spot, despite my protestations of innocence, and on pretext of seek- 
ing hidden phials of vitriol they poked and probed every inch of my person, 
and pinched and tweaked me in alarming places. Nay, I must own they 
laid lecherous hands upon me, and had soon done me a violence but that 
their sport was interrupted by another don an aging, saintlike gentleman, 
clearly their superior who bade them stand off and rebuked them for 
molesting me. I flung myself at his feet, and, raising me up and looking 
at me from top to toe, he enquired, What was the occasion of my being 
disrobed? I replied, I had but sung a song to please these gentlemen, 
the which they had called a blasphemy, and had then so diligently searched 
me for phials of vitriol, that I looked to be costive the week through. 

"The old don then commanded me to sing the song at once, that he 
might judge of its blasphemy, and so I fetched up my guitar, which the 
gypsies had taught me the use of, and as best I could (for I was weeping 
and shivering with fright) I once again sang Flow My Tears. Throughout 
the piece my savior smiled on me sweetly as an angel, and when I was 



[30] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

done he spoke not a word about blasphemy, but kissed me upon the fore- 
head, bade me dress, and after reproving again my tormentors, who were 
mightily ashamed at being thus surprised in their evil prank, he commanded 
me to go with him to his quarters. What's more, after interrogating me at 
length concerning my origin and my plight, and expressing surprise and 
pleasure at the extent of my reading, he then and there made me a member 
of his household staff, to serve him personally, and allowed me free use of 
his admirable library." 

"I must know who this saintly fellow was," Ebenezer interrupted. "My 
curiosity leaps its banks!" 

Burlingame smiled and raised a finger. "I shall tell thee, Eben; but not 
a word oft must you repeat, for reasons you'll see presently. Whatever his 
failings, 'twas a noble turn he did me, and I'd not see his name besmirched 
by any man." 

"Never fear," Ebenezer assured him. "Twill be like whispering it to 
thyself." 

"Very well, then. I shall tell thee only that he was Platonist to the ears, 
and hated Tom Hobbes as he hated the Devil, and was withal so fixed 
on things of the spirit on essential spissitude and indiscerptibility and 
metaphysical extension and the like, which were as real to him as rocks 
and cow-patties that he scarce lived in this world at all And should these 
be still not sufficient clues, know finally that he was at that time much 
engrossed in a grand treatise Against the materialist philosophy, which 
treatise he printed the following year under the title Enchiridion Meta- 
physicum" 

" 'Sheart!" Ebenezer whispered. "My dear friend, was't Henry More him- 
self you sang for? I should think 'twould be thy boast, not an embarrass- 
ment!" 

"Stay, till I end my tale. 'Twas in sooth great More himself I lived with! 
None knows more than I his noble character, and none is more a debtor 
to his generosity. I was then perhaps seventeen: I tried in -every way I 
knew to be a model of intelligence, good manners, and industry, and ere 
long the old fellow would allow no other servant near him. He took great 
pleasure in conversing with me, at first about my adventures at sea and 
with the gypsies, but later on matters of philosophy and theology, with 
which subjects I made special effort to acquaint myself. 'Twas plain he'd 
conceived a great liking for me." 

"Thou'rt a lucky wight, f faith!" Ebenezer sighed. 

"Nay; only hear me out. As time went on he no longer addressed me as 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

'Dear Henry/ or 'My boy/ but rather 'My son/ and 'My dear'; and after 
that 'Dearest thing/ and finally 'Thingums/ 'Precious laddikins/ and 'Gypsy 
mine' in turn. In short, as I soon guessed, his affection for me was Athenian 
as his philosophy -dare I tell you he more than once caressed me, and 
called me his little Alcibiades?" 

"I am amazed!" said Ebenezer. "The scoundrel rescued you from the 
other blackguards, merely to have you for his own unnatural lusts!" 

"Oh la, 'twas not at all the same thing, Eben. The others were men in 
their thirties, full to bursting (as my master himself put it) with the filth 
and unclean tinctures of corporeity. More, on the other hand, was near 
sixty, the gentlest of souls, and scarce realized himself, I daresay, the char- 
acter of his passion: I had no fear of him at all. And here I must confess, 
Eben, I did a shameful thing: so intent was I on entering the University, 
that instead of leaving More's service as soon as tact would permit, I lost 
no opportunity to encourage his shameful doting. I would perch on the 
arm of his chair like an impudent lass and read over his shoulder, or cover 
his eyes for a tease, or spring about the room like a monkey,, knowing he 
admired my energy and grace. Most of all I sang and played on my guitar 
for him: many's the night I blush to tell it! when I would let him come 
upon me, as though by accident; I would laugh and blush, and then as if 
to make a lark oft, take my guitar and sing FZoiv My Tears. 

"Need I say the poor philosopher was simply ravished? His passion so 
took governance o'er his other faculties, he grew so entirely enamored of 
me, that upon my granting him certain trifling favors, which I knew he'd 
long coveted but scarce hoped for, he spent nearly all his meager savings 
to outfit me like the son of an earl, and enrolled me in Trinity College." 

Here Burlingame lit another pipe, and sighed in remembrance. 

"I was, I believe, uncommonly well-read for a boy my age. In the two 
years with More I'd mastered Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, read all of Plato, 
Tully, Plotin, and divers other of the ancients, and at least perused most 
of the standard works of natural philosophy. My benefactor made no secret 
that he looked for me to become as notable a philosopher as Herbert of 
Cherbury, John Smith, or himself and who knows but what I might have 
been, had things turned out happily? But alas, Eben, that same shame- 
lessness by virtue of which I reached my goal proved my undoing. 'Twas 
quite poetic." 

"What happened, pray?" 

"I was not strong in mathematics," Burlingame said, "and for that reason 
I devoted much of my study to that subject, and spent as much time as 



t 32 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

I could with mathematicians especially with the brilliant young man who 
but two years before, in 1669, had taken Barrow's place as Lucasian Pro- 
fessor of Mathematics, and holds the office yet. . . ." 

"Newton!" 

"Aye, the wondrous Isaac! He was twenty-nine or thirty then, as I am 
now, with a face like a pure-bred stallion's. He was thin and strong and 
marvelous energetic, much given to moods; he had the arrogance that oft 
goes with great gifts, but was in other ways quite shy, and seldom over- 
bearing. He could be merciless with others' theories, yet was himself in- 
ordinately sensitive to criticism. He was so diffident about his talents 'twas 
with great reluctance he allowed aught of his discoveries to be printed; 
yet so vain, the slightest suggestion that someone had antedated him would 
drive him near mad with rage and jealousy. Impossible, splendid fellow!" 

"Marry, he frightens me!" Ebenezer said. 

"Now you must know that at that time More and Newton had no love 
whatever for each other, and the cause of their enmity was the French 
philosopher Renatus Descartes." 

"Descartes? How can that be?" 

"I know not how well you've heeded your tutors," Burlingame said; "you 
might know that all these Platonical gentleman of Christ's and Emmanuel 
Colleges are wont to sing the praises of Descartes, inasmuch as he makes 
a great show of pottering about in mathematics and the motions of heavenly 
bodies, like any Galileo, and yet unlike Tom Hobbes he affirms the real 
existence of God and the soul, which pleases them no end. The more for 
that the lot 'em are Protestants: this much-vaunted rejection of the learning 
of his time, that Renatus brags of in his Discourse on Method: this search- 
ing of his innards for his axioms is't not the first principle of Protestant- 
ism? Thus it is that Descartes' system is taught all over Cambridge, and 
More, like the rest, praised and swore by him as by a latter-day saint. Tell 
me, Eben: how is't, d'you think, that the planets are moved in their 
courses?" 

"Why," said Ebenezer, "'tis that the cosmos is filled with little particles 
moving in vortices, each of which centers on a star; and 'tis the subtle push 
and pull of these particles in our solar vortex that slides the planets along 
their orbs is't not?" 

"So saith Descartes," Burlingame smiled. "And d'you haply recall what 
is the nature of light?" 

"If I have't right," replied Ebenezer, "'tis an aspect of the vortices 
of the press of inward and outward forces in 'em. The celestial fire is sent 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 33 ] 

through space from the vortices by this pressure, which imparts a transitional 
motion to little light globules " 

"Which Renatus kindly hatched for that occasion," Burlingame inter- 
rupted. "And what's more he allows his globules both a rectilinear and a 
rotatory motion. If only the first occurs when the globules smite our retinae, 
we see white light; if both, we see color. And as if this were not magical 
enough mirabile dictul when the rotatory motion surpasseth the rectilin- 
ear, we see blue; when the reverse, we see red; and when the twain are 
equal, we see yellow. What fantastical drivel!" 

"You mean 'tis not the truth? I must say, Henry, it sounds reasonable 
to me. In sooth, there is a seed of poetry in it; it hath an elegance." 

"Aye, it hath every virtue and but one small defect,, which is, that such 
is not the case: the universe doth not operate in that wise. Marry, 'tis no 
crime, methinks, to teach the man's skeptical philosophy or his analytical 
geometry both have much of merit in 'em. But his cosmology is purely 
fanciful, his optics downright bizarre; and the first man to prove it is 
Isaac Newton." 

"Hence their enmity?" asked Ebenezer. 

Burlingame nodded. "By the time Newton became Lucasian Professor 
he had already spoilt Cartesian optics with his prism experiments and 
well do I recall them from his lectures! and he was refuting the theory 
of vortices by mathematics, though he hadn't as yet published his own 
cosmical hypotheses. But his loathing for Descartes goes deeper yet: it hath 
its origin in a difference betwixt their temperaments. Descartes, you know, 
is a clever writer, and hath a sort of genius for illustration that lends force 
to the wildest hypotheses. He is a great hand for twisting the cosmos 
to fit his theory. Newton, on the other hand, is a patient and brilliant ex- 
perimenter, with a sacred regard for the facts of nature. Then again, since 
the lectures De Motu Corporum and his papers on the nature of light have 
been available, the man always held up to him by his critics is Descartes. 

"So, then, no love was lost 'twixt Newton and More; they had in fact 
been quietly hostile to each other for some years. And when I became the 
focus oft, their antagonism boiled over." 

"You? But you were a simple student, were you not? Surely two such 
giants ne'er would stoop to fight their battles with their students." 

"Must I draw a picture, Eben?" Burlingame said. "I was out to learn 
the nature of the universe from Newton, but knowing I was More's prot6g6, 
he was cold and incommunicative with me. I employed every strategy I 
knew to remove this barrier, and, alas, won more than I'd fought for- 



[ 34 ] 1 SOT-WEED FACTOR 

in plain English, Eben, Newton grew as enamored of me as had More, 
with this difference only, that there was naught Platonical in his passion." 

"I know not what to think!" cried Ebenezer. 

"Nor did I," said Burlingame, "albeit one thing I knew well, which was 
that save for the impersonal respect I bare the twain of 'em, I cared not 
a fart for either. Tis a wise thing, Eben, not to confuse one affection with 
another. Well, sir, as the months passed, each of my swains came to realize 
the passions of the other, and both grew as jealous as Cervantes' Celoso 
Extremeno. They carried on shamefully, and each threatened my ruination 
in the University should I not give o'er the other. As for me, I paid no more 
heed than necessary to either, but wallowed in the libraries of the colleges 
like a dolphin in the surf. Twas job enough for me to remember to eat 
and sleep, much less fulfill the million little obligations they thought I 
owed 'em. Ffaith, a handsome pair!" 

"Prithee, what was the end of it?" 

Burlingame sighed. "I played the one against the other for above two 
years, till at last Newton could endure it no longer. The Royal Society 
had by this time published his experiments with prisms and reflecting 
telescopes, and he was under fire from Robert Hooke, who had light theories 
of his own; from the Dutchman Christian Huygens, who was committed 
to the lens telescope; from the French monk Pardies; and from the Belgian 
Linus. So disturbed was he by the conjunction of this criticism and his 
jealousy, that in one and the same day he swore ne'er to publish another 
of his discoveries, and confronted More in the latter's chambers with the 
intent of challenging him to settle their rivalry for good and all by means 
of a duel to the death!" 

"Ah, what a loss to the world, whatever the issue oft!" observed Ebenezer. 

"As't happened, no blood was let," Burlingame said: "the tale ends hap- 
pily for them both, if not for the teller. After much discourse Newton 
discovered that his rival's position was uncertain as his own, and that I 
seemed equally indifferent to both-which conclusion, insofar as't touches 
the particular matters they had in mind, is as sound as any in the Principia. 
In addition More showed to Newton his Enchiridion Metaphysicum, 
wherein he plainly expressed a growing disaffection for Descartes; and New- 
ton assured More that albeit 'twas universal gravitation, and not angels 
or vortices, that steered the planets in their orbits, there yet remained 
employment enough for the Deity as a first cause to set the cosmic wheels 
a-spin, e'en as old Renatus had declared. In fine> so far from dueling to 
the death, they so convinced each other that at the end of some hours of 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 35 ] 

colloquy all of which I missed, being then engrossed in the library they 
fell to tearful embraces, and decided then and there to cut me off without 
a penny, arrange my dismissal from the College, and move into the same 
lodgings, where, so they declared, they would couple the splendors of the 
physical world to the glories of the ideal, and listen ravished to the music 
of the spheres! This last they never did in fact, but their connection endures 
to this day, and from all I hear, More hath washed his hands entirely of 
old Descartes, while Newton hath caught a foolish infatuation with theology, 
and seeks to explain the Apocalypse by application of his laws of series 
and fluxions. As for the first two of their resolves, they fulfilled 'em to the 
letter turned me out to starve, and so influenced all and sundry against 
me that not a shilling could I beg, nor eat one meal on credit. 'Twas off 
to London I went, with not a year 'twixt me and the baccalaureate. Thus 
was it, in 1676, upon my advertising my desire for employment, that your 
father found me; and playing fickle to the scholar's muse, I turned to you 
and your dear sister all the zeal I'd erst reserved for my researches. Your 
instruction became my First Good, my Primary Cause, which lent to all 
else its form and order. And my fickleness is thorough and entire: not for 
an instant have I regretted the way of my life, or thought wistfully of 
Cambridge." 

"Dear, dear Henry!" Ebenezer cried. "How thy tale moves me, and 
shames me, that I let slip through idleness what you strove so hard in vain 
to reach! Would God I had another chance!" 

"Nay, Eben, thou'rt no scholar, I fear. You have perchance the school- 
man's love of lore, but not the patience, not the address, not I fear that 
certain nose for relevance, that grasp of the world, which sets apart the 
thinker from the crank. There is a thing in you, a set of the grain as 'twere, 
that would keep you ingenuous even if all the books in all the libraries 
of Europe were distilled in your brain. Nay, let the baccalaureate go; I 
came here not to exhort you to try again, or to chide you for failing, but 
to take you with me to London for a time, until you see your way clearly. 
'Twas Anna's idea, who loves you more than herself, and I think it wise." 

"Precious Anna! How came she to know thy whereabouts?" 

"There, now," laughed Burlingame, "that is another tale entirely, and 
'twill do for another time. Come with me to London, and I'll tell it thee 
in the carriage." 

Ebenezer hesitated. " Tis a great step." 

"'Tis a great world and a short life!" replied Burlingame. "A pox on 
all steps but great ones!" 



[ 36 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"I fear me what Father would say, did he hear oft." 

"My dear fellow/' Burlingame said caustically, "we sit here on a blind 
rock careening through space; we are all of us rushing headlong to the 
grave. Think you the worms will care, when anon they make a meal of 
you, whether you spent your moment sighing wigless in your chamber, 
or sacked the golden towns of Montezuma? Lookee, the day's nigh spent; 
'tis gone careening into time forever. Not a tale's length past we lined our 
bowels with dinner, and already they growl for more. We are dying men, 
Ebenezer: i'faith, there's time for naught but bold resolves!" 

"You lend me courage, Henry," Ebenezer said, rising from the table, 
"Let us begone." 



4: EBENEZER'S FIRST SOJOURN IN LONDON, AND 
THE ISSUE OF IT 



BURLINGAME SLEPT THAT NIGHT IN EBENEZER T $ ROOM, AND THE NEXT 

day they left Cambridge for London by carriage. 

"I think you've not yet told me," the young man said en route, "how 
it is you left St. Giles so suddenly, and how Anna came to know your 
whereabouts." 

Burlingame sighed. "'Tis a simple mystery, if a sad one. The fact is, 
Eben, your father fancies I have designs upon your sister." 

"Nay! Incredible!" 

"Ah, now, as for that, 'tis not so incredible; Anna is a sweet and clever 
girl, and uncommon lovely." 

^"Yet think of your ages!" Ebenezer said. "'Tis absurd of Father!" 

"Think you 'tis absurd?" Burlingame asked, coloring slightly. "Thou'rt 
a candid fellow." 

"Ah, forgive me," Ebenezer laughed; "'twas a rude remark. Nay, 'tis 
not Absurd at all: thou'rt but thirty-odd, and Anna twenty-one. I dare- 
say 'tis that you were our teacher made me think of you as older." 

"'Twere no absurd suspicion, methinks, that any man might look with 
love on Anna," Burlingame declared, "and I did indeed love the both of 
you for years, and love you yet; nor did I ever try to hide the fact. Tis not 
that which distresses me; 'tis Andrew's notion that I had vicious designs 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 37 ] 

on the girl. 'Sheart, if anything be improbable, 'tis that so marvelous a 
qreature as Anna could look with favor on a penniless pedagogue!" 

"Nay, Henry, I have oft heard her protest, that by comparison to you, 
none of her acquaintances was worth the labor of being civil to." 

"Anna said that?" 

"Aye, in a letter not two months past." 

"Ah well, whatever the case, Andrew took my regard for her as lewd 
intent, and threatened me one afternoon that should I not begone ere 
morning he'd shoot me like a dog and horsewhip dear Anna into the 
bargain. I had no fear for myself, but not to risk bringing injury to her 
I left at once, albeit it tore my heart to go." 

Ebenezer sat amazed at this revelation. "How she wept that morning! 
and yet neither she nor Father told me aught oft!" 

"Nor must you speak of it to either," Burlingame warned, "for 'twould 
but embarrass Anna, would it not? And anger Andrew afresh, for there's 
no statute of limitations within a family. Think not you'll reason him out 
of his notion: he is convinced of it." 

"I suppose so," Ebenezer said doubtfully. "Then Anna has been in cor- 
respondence with you since?" 

"Not so regularly as I could wish. Egad, how I've yearned for news of 
you! I took lodgings on Thames Street, between Billingsgate and the 
Customs-House far cry from the summer-pavilion at St. Giles, you'll see! 
and hired myself as tutor whenever I was able, in order to eat, though 
I've had no pleasure in my students. For two years and more I was unable 
to communicate with Anna, for fear your father would hear oft, but some 
months ago I chanced to be engaged as a tutor in French to a Miss Bromly 
from Plumtree Street, that remembered you and Anna as playmates ere 
you removed to St. Giles. Through her I was able to tell Anna where I live, 
and though I dare not write to her, she hath contrived on two or three 
occasions to send me letters. Twas thus I learned the state of your affairs, 
and I was but too pleased to act on her suggestion that I fetch you out 
of Cambridge. She is a dear gid r Eben!" 

"I long to see her again!" Ebenezer said. 

"And I," said Burlingame, "for I esteem her as highly as thee, and 'tis 
three years since I've seen her." 

"Think you she might visit us in London?" 

"Nay, I fear 'tis out of the question. Andrew would have none of it." 

"Yet surely I cannot resign myself to never seeing her again! Can you, 
Henry?" 



[ 38 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Tis not my wont to look that far ahead," Burlingame said. "Let us 
consider rather how you'll occupy yourself in London. You must not sit 
idle, lest you slip again into languishment and stupor/ 7 

"Alas," said Ebenezer, "I cannot decide on a life work; I have no long- 
term goals toward which to labor." 

"Then follow my example/' advised Burlingame, "and set as your long- 
term goal the successful completion of all your short-term goals. Could one 
wish a better?" 

"Yet neither have I any short-term goal." 

"Ah, but you will ere long, when your belly growls for dinner and your 
money's gone." 

"Unhappy day!" laughed Ebenezer. "I've no skill in any craft or trade 
whatever. I cannot even play Flow My Tears on the guitar. I can do noth- 
ing/' 

"Then 'tis plain you'll be a teacher, like myself." 

"'Sheart! Twould be the blind leading the blind!" 

"Aye,* smiled Burlingame. "Who better grasps the trials of sightlessness 
than he whose eyes are gone?" 

"But what teach? I know something of many things, and enough of 
naught." 

"I'faith, then the field is open, and you may graze where you list." 

"Teach a thing I know naught of?" exclaimed Ebenezer. 

"And raise thy fee for't," replied Burlingame, "inasmuch as 'tis no chore 
to teach what you know, but to teach what you know naught of requires a 
certain application. Choose a thing you'd greatly like to learn, and straight- 
way proclaim yourself professor oft." 

Ebenezer shook his head. "Tis still impossible; I am curious about the 
world in general, and ne'er could choose." 

'Very well, then: I dub thee Professor of the Nature of the World, 
and as such shall we advertise you. Whate'er your students wish to learn 
oft, that will you teach them/' 

^Thou'rt jesting, Henry!" 

"Ift be a jest," replied Burlingame, "'tis a happy one, I swear, for just 
so have I lined my belly these three years. B'm'faith, the things Fve taught! 
The great thing is always to be teaching something to someone a fig for 
what or to whom. 'Tis no trick at all." 

No matter what Ebenezer thought of this proposal, he had not the 
wherewithal to reject it: immediately on arriving in London he moved into 
Burlingame's chambers by the river and was established as a full partner. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 39 ] 

A few days after that, Burlingame brought him his first customer a lout of 
a tailor from Crutched Friars who happily desired to be taught nothing 
more intricate than his A B Cs and for the next few months Ebenezer 
earned his living as a pedagogue. He worked six or seven hours a day, 
both in his rooms and at the homes of his students, and spent most of 
his free time studying desperately for the following day's lessons. What 
leisure he had he spent in the taverns and coffee-houses with a small circle 
of Burlingame's acquaintances, mostly idle poets. Impressed by their ap- 
parent confidence in their talent, he too endeavored on several occasions 
to write poems, but abandoned the effort each time for want of anything 
to write about. 

At his insistence a devious correspondence was established with his sister 
through Miss Bromly, Burlingame's pupil, and after two months Anna con- 
trived to visit them in London, using as excuse the illness of a spinster 
aunt, Andrew's sister, who lived near Leadenhall. The twins were, as may 
be imagined, overjoyed to see each other again, for although conversation 
did not come so readily since Ebenezer's departure from St. Giles three 
years before, each still bore, abstractly at least, the greatest affection and 
regard for the other. Burlingame, too, Anna expressed considerable but 
properly decorous pleasure in seeing again. She had changed somewhat 
since Ebenezer had seen her last: her brown hair had lost something of 
its shine, and her face, while still fair, was leaner and less girlish than he 
remembered it. 

"My dear Anna!" he said for the fourth or fifth time. "How good it is 
to hear your voice! Tell me, how did you leave Father? Is he well?" 

Anna shook her head. "Well on the way to Bedlam,, I fear, or to driving 
me there. Tis your disappearance, Eben; it angers and frightens him at 
once. He knows not the cause oft, or whether to comb the realm for you 
or disown you. A dozen times daily he demands of me whether I know 
aught of your whereabouts, or else rails at me for keeping things from him. 
He is grown hugely suspicious of me, and yet sometimes asks of you so 
plaintively as to move my tears. He has aged much these past weeks, and 
though he blows and blusters no less than before, his heart is not in it, 
and it saps his strength." 

"Ah, God, it pains me to hear that!" 

"And me," said Burlingame, "for though old Andrew hath small love 
for me, I wish him no ill." 

"I do think," Anna said to Ebenezer, "that you should strive to es- 
tablish yourself in some calling, and communicate with him directly you 



[40] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

find a place; for despite the abuse he'll surely heap on you, 'twill ease his 
soul to learn thou'rt well, and well established." 

"And 'twould ease mine to ease his/' Ebenezer said. 

"Marry, and yet 'tis your own life!" Burlingame cried impatiently. "Fil- 
ial love be damned, it. galls me sore to see the pair of you o'erawed by the 
pompous rascal!" 

"Henry!" Anna chided. 

"You must pardon me," Burlingame said; "I mean no harm by't. But 
lookee, Anna, 'tis not alone Andrew's health that suffers. Thou'rt peaked 
thyself, and wan, and I mark a sobering of your spirits. You too should 
flee St. Giles for London, as your aunt's companion or the like." 

"Am I wan and solemn?" Anna asked gently. "Haply 'tis mere age,, Henry: 
one-and-twenty is no more a careless child. But prithee ask me not to leave 
St. Giles; 'tis to ask Father's death." 

"Or belike she hath a suitor there," Ebenezer said to Burlingame. "Is't 
not so, Anna?" he teased. "Some rustic swain, perchance, that hath won 
your heart? One-and-twenty is no child, but 'twere a passing good wife, 
were't not? Say, Henry, see the girl blush! Methinks I've hit on't!" 

" 'Twere a lucky bumpkin, b'm'faith," Burlingame remarked. 

"Nay," said Anna, "twit me no more on't, Brother, I pray you." 

She was so plainly overwrought that Ebenezer at once begged her 
forgiveness for his tease. 

Anna kissed his cheek. "How shall I marry, when the man I love best 
hath the bad sense to be my brother? What say the books at Cambridge, 
Eben? Was e'er a maid less lucky?" 

"Nay, i'faith!" laughed Ebenezer. "You'll live and die a maiden ere 
you find my like! Yet I commend my friend here to your attention, who 
though something gone in years yet sings a creditable tenor, and is the 
devil's own good fellow!" 

As soon as he spoke it Ebenezer realized the tactlessness of his remark 
in the light of what Burlingame had told him weeks before of Andrew's 
suspicions; both men blushed at once, but Anna saved the situation by 
kissing Burlingame lightly on the cheek as she had kissed her brother, and 
saying easily, "'Twere no mean catch, if you speak truly. Doth he know 
his letters?" 

"What matter?" Burlingame asked, joining the raillery. "Whatever I lack, 
this fellow here can teach me, or so he vaunts." 

" 'Swounds, that reminds me," Ebenezer said, jumping up, "I must run 
to Tower Hill this minute, to give young Farmsley his first recorder lesson!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 41 ] 

He fetched an alto recorder from the mantelpiece. "Quickly, Henry, how 
doth one blow the thing?" 

"Nay, not quickly: slowly," Burlingame said. "'Twere a grievous error 
to learn an art too fast. On no account must thy Farmsley blow a note 
ere he's spent an hour fondling the instrument, holding it properly, taking 
it apart and fitting it together. And never, never should the master show 
off his own ability, lest the student grow discouraged at the distance he 
must travel. I'll teach you the left-hand notes tonight, and you can play 
Les Bouffons for him on the morrow/' 

"Must you go?" Anna asked. 

"Aye, or 'tis stale bread come Sunday,, for Henry hath no scholars of 
his own this week. I shall trust you to his care till I return." 

Anna remained a week in London, slipping away from her aunt's bed- 
side as often as possible to visit Ebenezer and Burlingame. At the end of 
that time, the aunt having recuperated sufficiently to manage for herself, 
she announced her intention to return to St. Giles, and to Burlingame's 
considerable surprise and distress, Ebenezer declared that he was going 
with her nor could any amount of expostulation change his mind. 

" Tis no good," he would say, shaking his head. "I am not a teacher." 

"Damn me," Burlingame cried, "if thou'rt not fleeing responsibility!" 

"Nay. If I flee, I flee to it, not from it. Twas a coward's act to hide 
from Father's wrath. I shall ask his pardon and do whate'er he requires 
of me." 

"A pox on his anger! 'Tis not responsibility to him I speak of at all, 
but responsibility to thyself. Twere a noble act, on the face oft,- to beg 
his pardon and take your birching like a man, but 'tis no more than an 
excuse for dropping the reins of your own life. 'Sheart, 'tis a manlier matter 
to set your goal and swallow the consequences!" 

Ebenezer shook his head. "Put what face you will upon it, Henry, I 
must go. Can a son stand by and watch his father fret to an early grave?" 

"Think no ill oft, Henry," Anna pleaded. 

"Surely you don't believe it a wise move also?" Burlingame asked in- 
credulously. 

"I cannot judge the wisdom oft," Anna replied, "but certain 'twere not 
a wrong thing to do." 

"Marry, I have done with the twain of you!" Burlingame cried. "Praise 
Heav'n I know not my own father, if this be how they shackle one!" 

"I pray Heav'n rather you may someday find him," Anna said calmly, 



[42] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"or word of him, at least. A man's father is his link with the past: the 
bond 'twixt him and the world he's born to." 

"Then again I thank Heav'n I'm quit of mine/' said Burlingame. "It 
leaves me free and unencumbered. 7 ' 

"It doth in sooth, Henry," Anna said with some emotion, "for better 
or worse." 

When the time came to leave, Ebenezer asked, "When shall we see you 
again, Henry? I shall miss you painfully." 

But Burlingame only shrugged and said, "Stay here now, if t pain you 
so." 

"I shall visit as often as I can." 

"Nay, risk not your father's displeasure. Besides, I may be gone." 

"Gone?" asked Anna, with mild alarm. "Gone whither, Henry?" 

He shrugged again. "There's naught to keep me here. I care not a fig 
for any of my pupils, save to pass the time till something else absorbs me." 

After making their good-byes, which their friend's bitterness rendered 
awkward,, Ebenezer and Anna hired a carriage to fetch them to St. Giles 
in the Fields. The little journey, though uneventful, they both enjoyed, 
for despite the fact that Anna was disturbed to the point of occasional 
tears over Burlingame's attitude, and Ebenezer grew more anxious by 
the mile at the prospect of confronting his father, the carriage-ride was 
the twins' first opportunity in some time to converse privately and at 
length. When finally they arrived at the Cooke estate they found to their 
alarm that Andrew had taken to his bed three days before, at the direction 
of his physician, and was being cared for by Mrs. Twigg, the housekeeper, 
like an invalid. 

"Dear God!" cried Anna. "And I in London all the while!" 

" 'Tis no fault of yours, my dear," said Mrs. Twigg. "He told us not to 
send for you. 'Twould do him good to see you, though, I'm certain." 

"I shall go too," Ebenezer declared. 

"Nay, not just yet," Anna said. "Let me see what state he's in, and how 
'twill strike him. 'Twere best to prepare him for it, don't you think?" 

Ebenezer agreed, somewhat reluctantly, for he feared his courage would 
fail him should he postpone the move too long. That same day, however, 
Andrew's physician paid a call to the estate, and after learning what the 
situation was and assuring Ebenezer that his father was too weak to make 
a scene, he took it upon himself to announce to Andrew, as tactfully as 
possible, that his son had returned. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 43 ] 

"He desires to see you at once/' the physician reported afterwards to 
Ebenezer. 

"Is he terribly wroth?" Ebenezer asked. 

"I think not. Your sister's return raised his spirits, and I recalled to him 
the story of the prodigal son." 

Ebenezer went upstairs and into his father's bedchamber, a room he had 
entered not more than thrice in his life. He found his father anything but 
the figure he'd feared: lying wigless and thin in the bed, he looked nearer 
seventy than fifty; his cheeks were hollow, his eyes pale; his hair was turning 
white, his voice querulous. At the sight of him Ebenezer quite forgot a 
small speech of apology he'd concocted; tears sprang to his eyes, and he knelt 
beside the bed. 

"Get up, son, get up," Andrew said with a sigh, ''and let me look at ye. 
'Tis good to see ye again, I swear it." 

"Is't possible thou'rt not enraged?" Ebenezer asked, speaking with 
difficulty, "My conduct warrants it." 

"Ffaith, Fve no longer the heart for't. Thou'rt my son in any case, and 
my only son, and if I could wish a better, you too might wish a better 
father. Tis no light matter to be a good one," 

"I owe you much explanation." 

"Mark the debt canceled," Andrew said, "for I've not the strength for 
that either. Tis the bad child's grace to repent, and the bad father's to 
forgive, and there's an end on't. Stay, now, I've a deal to say to you and 
small wind to say it in. In yonder table lies a paper I drafted only yesterday, 
when the world looked somewhat darker than it doth today. Fetch it hither, 
if t please ye." 

Ebenezer did as he was instructed. 

"Now," said his father, holding the paper away from Ebenezer's view, 
"ere I show ye this, say truly: are ye quite ready to have done with flitting 
hither and yon, and commence to carry a man's portion like a man? If not, 
ye may put this back where ye fetched it." 

"I shall do whate'er you wish, sir," Ebenezer said soberly. 

"Marry, 'tis almost too much to hopel Mrs. Twigg has oft maintained 
that English babies ne'er should take French tit, and lays as the root o' 
your prodigality the pull and tug of French milk with English blood. Yet 
I have e'er hoped, and hope still, that soon or late I'll see ye a man,, in sooth 
an Ebenezer for our house." 

"Beg pardon, sir! I must own I lose you in this talk of French milk and 
Ebenezers. Surely my mother wasn't French?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Nay, nay, thou'rt English sired and English foaled, ye may be certain. 
Damn that doctor, anyway! Fetch me a pipe and sit ye down, boy, and 
I shall lay your history open to ye once for all, and the matter I'm most 
concerned with." 

"Is't not unwise to tire yourself?" Ebenezer inquired. 

"La," Andrew scoffed, "by the same logic 'tis folly to live. Nay, I'll rest 
soon enough in the grave." He raised himself a bit on the bed, accepted 
a pipe from Ebenezer, and after sampling it with pleasure, commenced 
his story: 

" Twas in the summer of 1665," he said, "when I came to London from 
Maryland to settle some business with the merchant Peter Paggen down 
by Baynard's Castle, that I met and married Anne Bowyer of Bassing- 
shawe, your mother. Twas a brief wooing, and to escape the great Plague 
we sailed at once to Maryland on the brig Redoubt, cargoed with dry goods 
and hardware. We ran into storms from the day we left the Lizard, and 
headwinds from Flores to the Capes; fourteen weeks we spent a-crossing, 
and when at last we stepped ashore at St. Mary's City in December, poor 
Anne was already three months with childl Twas an unhappy circumstance, 
for you must know that every newcomer to the plantations endures a period 
of seasoning, some weeks of fitting to the clime, and hardier souls than 
Anne have succumbed to't. She was a little woman, and delicate, fitter for 
the sewing parlor than the 'tween decks: we'd been not a week at St. Mary's 
ere a cold she'd got on shipboard turned to a frightful ague. I fetched her 
o'er the Bay to Maiden at once, and the room I'd built for her bridal- 
chamber became her sick-roomshe languished there for the balance of 
her term, weak and feverish." 

Ebenezer listened with considerable emotion, but could think of nothing 
to say. His father drew again on his pipe. 

"My whole house," he continued, "and I as well, looked for Anne to 
miscarry, or else deliver the child still-born, by reason of her health. None- 
theless I took it upon myself to seek a wet nurse on the chance it might 
live, for I knew well poor Anne could ne'er give suck. As't happened, 
one day in February I chanced to be standing on the wharf where Cambridge 
is now, bargaining with some planters, when I heard a great splash in the 
Choptank behind me, and turned around in time to see a young lady's 
head go under the ice." 

"Mercy!" 

"I was a passing good swimmer in those days, despite my arm, and as 
no one else seemed inclined to take a cold bath I jumped in after her, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 45 ] 

periwig and all, and held her up till the others fetched us out. But think 
ye I got so much as a thankee for my pains? The wench was no sooner 
herself again than she commenced to bewail her rescue and berate me for 
not letting her drown. This surprised the lot of us no end, inasmuch 
as she was a pretty young thing, not above sixteen or seventeen years old. 

44 'How is't ye wish to end what you've scarce begun?' I asked her. 'Many's 
the merry tale hath a bad beginning.' 

" 'No matter the cause oft,' she replied. 'In sooth I've little to thank 
ye for; in saving me from a short death by drowning, you but condemn 
me to a long one by freezing, or a longer by starving/ 

"I was about to press her farther for the cause, but I chanced to observe 
what I'd not remarked ere then that though her face and arms were peaked 
and thin, her belly was a-bloom for fair. 

" 'Ah, I see't now,' I said. 'Belike your master had sent ye to feel of the 
sot-weed, whether 'twas dry enough for casking, and some field-hand rogered 
ye in the curing-house?' 

"This I said by way of a tease, inasmuch as I guessed by her ragged dress 
and grimy skin she was a servant girl. She made no answer, but shook her 
head and wept e'en harder. 

" Welladay, then,' I said to her, 'if not a field-hand, why, the master 
himself, and if not the curing-house, then the linen closet or the cowshed. 
Such a belly as thine is not got in church, I swear! And now the planter's 
not stayed to lay by his harvest, I'll wager/ 

"After some farther enquiry the girl owned she had indeed been supping 
ere the priest said grace, as young folks will; but only once, and this not 
by force at the hands of a servingman, but rather at the entreaty of a 
planter's son who'd sworn his love for her. Nor was't a mere silly milkmaid's 
maidenhead he took, i'faith, for she was Roxanne Edouard, the orphan 
of the great French gentleman Cecile Edouard of Edouardine, upriver from 
Cooke's Point. She'd been reared since her parents' death by a wealthy 
uncle in Church Creek, down-county, who was so concerned for her noble 
blood that he permitted her no suitors from among the young men of 
the place. Twas her bad luck to fall in love with the eldest son of her 
uncle's neighbor, another planter, and he in turn was so taken with her 
that he begged her to marry him. She was a dutiful enough child not to 
wed a young man against the wishes of her guardian, but not so dutiful 
that she didn't let him have first go at her anyhow, in the bilge of a piragua 
out on the river. Afterwards she refused to see him farther, and the young 
fool was so distressed as to give up his patrimony and go to sea a common 



[46] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

sailor, ne'er to be heard from again. Anon she found herself with child, 
and straightway confessed the whole matter to her uncle, who turned her 
off the place at once/ 7 

"How!" Ebenezer cried. "Tis a nice concern he bore her, indeed! 
Heav'n protect a child from such solicitude! I cannot fathom it!" 

"Nor I" said Andrew, "but thus it happened, or so I heard it. What's 
more, he threatened violence to any who took her in, and so poor Roxanne 
was soon brought to direst straits. She tried to indent herself as a domestic, 
though 'twas little she knew of work; but masters had small inclination 
for a servant who would herself need service ere many months passed. Every- 
one knew her and her plight,, and many a man who'd been turned from 
her uncle's door for paying her the merest cordiality before, made her the 
filthiest proposals now she was down on her luck." 

"'Sheart! Had the wretches no pity for her state?" 

"Nay, e'en here her belly undid her, for so far from discouraging, it seemed 
rather the more to enflame 'em, the plainer it showed. Have ye not your- 
self observed " He glanced at his son. "Nay, no matter. In short, she 

saw naught ahead save harlotry and disgrace on the one hand, or rape 
and starvation on the other, and being ashamed of the former and afraid 
of the latter, she chose a third in lieu of either, which was, to leap into the 
Choptank." 

"And, prithee, what did she after you saved her?" Ebenezer asked. 

"Why, what else but strive with might and main to leap in again?" An- 
drew replied. "At last it occurred to me to invite her to join my house, 
since she looked to lighten but a week ere poor Anne; I agreed to keep 
her well and provide for her confinement on condition she suckle our babe, 
if it should live, with her own. She agreed, we drafted the indenture-papers, 
and I fetched her back to Maiden. 

"Now your mother, God rest her, grew worse all the time. She was a 
wondrous Protestant, much giv'n to Bible-reading, and whene'er I showed 
her pity she was wont to reply, Tear not, husband: the Lord will help us/ " 

"Bless her!" said Ebenezer. 

"'Twas her conceit," Andrew went on, "to regard her several infirm- 
ities as an enemy host, and late and soon she was after me to read her from 
the Old Testament of God's military intercessions in behalf of the 
Israelites. Hence when her ague passed off without killing her (albeit it left 
her pitifully weak), she was proud as any general who sees a flank of the 
enemy turned, and she declared like the prophet Samuel upon the rout 
of the Philistines, Thus far hath the Lord helped us!' At length her time 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [47] 

arrived, and after frightful labor she brought forth Anna, eight pounds 
and a half. She named her after her own mother, and said again to me, 
'Thus far hath the good Lord helped us!' Not a soul then but thought 
her trials were done, and even I, who was no Catholic saint nor Protestant 
either, thanked God for her delivery. But not an hour after bearing Anna 
her travail commenced again, and after much clamor and hollowing she 
brought you to light, nigh as big as your sister. Seventeen pounds of child 
she dropped in all, from a well, from a frame so delicate, simple flatulence 
gave her pain. 'Twas no wonder she passed into a coma ere your shoulders 
cleared, and ne'er recovered from it! That same night she died, and the 
weather being unseasonably hot for May, I fetched her down next day and 
buried her 'neath a great loblolly pine tree on the Bay side of the point, 
where she lies yet." 

"God help me!" Ebenezer wept. "I am not worthy oft!" 

"'Twould be dishonest not to own/' Andrew said, "that such exactly 
were my sentiments at the time, God forgive me. E'en as the burial service 
was read I could hear the twain of you a-squalling up in the house, and 
when I placed a boulder atop the sandy grave, against the time our mason 
could letter a headstone, it recalled to me those verses in the Book of 
Samuel where God smites the Philistines and Samuel dedicates the token 
of His aid the stone the Hebrews called Ebenezer. Twas then, boy, in 
bitterness and sacrilege, I gave ye that name: I baptized ye myself, ere 
Roxanne could stay me, with the dregs of a flagon of perry, and declared 
to the company of Maiden, 'Thus far hath the Lord helped us!' " 

"Ah, dear Father, berate thyself no more for't," Ebenezer begged 
though Andrew had displayed no particular emotion. "I understand and 
forgive!" 

Andrew tapped out his pipe in a spittoon beside the bed and, after 
resting a moment, resumed his story. 

"In any case/' he said calmly, ''you and your sister ne'er wanted mothering. 
The girl Roxanne had borne her own child, a daughter, eight days before, 
but the babe had strangled ere its first cry with the navel-cord round its neck; 
so that maugre the fact there were two of ye, instead of one, she had no 
more mouths to feed than breasts to feed 'em with, and there was milk 
aplenty for all. She was e'er a healthy wench once on her feed again 
ruddy-faced, full-breasted, and spirited as a dairymaid for all her fine blood. 
For the four years of her indenture she raised ye as her own. Mrs. Twigg 
declared no good could come of mixing French pap and English blood, 
but ye grew fat and merry as any babes in Dorset. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"In 1670, the last year of Roxanne's service, I resolved to leave Maiden 
for London. I was weary of factoring, for one thing; I saw no chance to im- 
prove my tobacco-holdings, for another; and though Cooke's Point is of all 
places on earth dearest to my heart, and my first and largest property, yet 
'twas e'er a heartache to live a widower in the house Fd raised for my 
bride. Moreover, I must own my position with regard to Roxanne had got 
somewhat delicate since poor Anne's death. That she thought no ill o' me 
I took for granted, for she was bound to me by gratitude as well as legal 
instrument. I in turn was more than a little obliged to her, in that she'd 
not only suckled twice as many of my children as she was legally bound 
to, but done it with a mother's love, and had taken on most of Mrs, Twigg's 
duties as governess as well, out of pure affection for ye. I've said already 
she was an uncommon pretty piece, and I at that time was a strapping 
wight of thirty-three, prosperous and it may be not unhandsome, who by 
reason of poor Anne's affliction and death had perforce slept alone and 
uncomf orted since my arrival in the province. Hence, 'tis not surprising 
some small-minded busybodies should have it Roxanne was filling Anne's 
place in the bedchamber as well as the nursery more especially since they 
themselves had lechered after her. Tis e'er the way of men, I've learned, 
to credit others with the sins themselves want either the courage or the 
means to commit." 

"But marry, what vicious gossip!" 

"Aye/' Andrew said, "but As -well be a sinner as known for one. What a 
man is in the eyes of God means little to the world of men. All things 
considered, I thought it well to release her; yet I could by no means send 
her back to death or harlotry, and so 'twas a pleasant surprise when, one 
day on that selfsame landing where I'd met her, I was approached by a 
man who introduced himself as Roxanne's uncle, and asked most solicit- 
ously after his niece." 

"I pray the fellow had tempered his wrath by then." 

"He had," Andrew said, "to the point where the very thought of his 
former unkindness started him to tears, and when I told him of Roxanne's 
subsequent straits and of the death of her infant, he near tore his hair in 
remorse. There was no end to his expressions of gratitude for my having 
saved and cared for her; he declared himself eager to make amends for his 
severity, and entreated me to prevail upon Roxanne to return to his house. 
I reminded him that it was his unreasonableness in the matter of suitors 
for his niece that had driven her to her former disgrace, and he replied 
that so far from persisting in that unreasonableness, he had in mind at 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [49] 

that very moment an excellent match for her with a wealthy fellow of 
the neighborhood, who had e'er looked kindly upon her. 

"You can imagine Roxanne's surprise when she learned of all this. She 
was pleased to hear of her uncle's change of heart, and yet 'twas like giving 
up two of her own to let you and Anna go. She wept and wailed, as women 
will at any great change in their circumstances, and pleaded with me to 
take her to London, but it seemed to me 'twould be a disservice to the 
twain of us to maintain any longer our connection, more especially since 
her uncle had a substantial match arranged for her. Thus was it that on 
the same day when I gave Roxanne my half of her indenture-bond, sig- 
nifying the end of her service, her uncle drove out to Maiden in a buck- 
board and fetched her away, and that was that. Not a fortnight later I too 
made my last farewells to Maiden, and to the grave of your mother, and 
left Maryland forever. Think not 'twas an easy matter to go: 'tis a rarity 
indeed when Life presents ye with a clean choice, i'faith! Tis more her wont 
to arrange things in such fashion that de'il the course ye choose, 'twill give 
ye pain. Eheu! Fve rambled and digressed till I'm near out of wind! Here 
now/' he said, handing Ebenezer the document he'd been toying and 
gesturing with throughout his narration. "Read this whilst I catch my 
breath." 

Ebenezer took the paper, curious and uneasy, and read, among other 
things: 

Andrew Cooke of the parish of St. Giles in the Fields in the County of Middle- 
sex, Gentleman doe make this my last will and Testament as followeth ... In* 
primus I give to my Son Ebenezer Cooke and Anna Cooke my daughter all my 
Right and Title of and to ... all my Land called Cookes Poynt lyng at the 
mouth of great Choptank River lyng in Dorchester County in Maryland . . . 
share and share alike. . . , 

"Dost see't, boy?" Andrew demanded. "Dost grasp it, damn ye? Tis 
Cooke's Point; 'tis my dear sweet Maiden, where the twain of ye saw day- 
light and your mother lies yet! There's this house too, and the place on 
Plumtree Street, but Cooke's Point's where my heart lies; Maiden's my 
darling, that I raised out o' the wilderness. 'Tis your legacy, Eben, your 
inheritance; 'tis your personal piece o' the great wide world to husband 
and to fructify and a noble legacy 'tis, b'm'faith! 'Share and share alike/ 
but the job of managing an estate is man's work, not woman's. Twas for 
this I got, reared, and schooled ye,, and 'tis for this ye must work and gird 
yourself, damn ye, to make ye worthy oft, and play no more at shiU I, 
shall II" 



[ r O ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Ebenezer blushed. "I am sensible I have been remiss, and I've naught 
to say in my defense, save that 'twas not stupidity undid me at Cambridge, 
but feckless indirection. Would God I'd had dear Henry Burlingame to 
steer and prod me!" 

"Burlingamer cried Andrew. "Fogh! He came no nearer the baccalau- 
reate than yourself. Nay, 'twas your dear rascal Burlingame ruined ye, 
methinks, in not teaching ye how to work." He waved the draft of his 
will "Think ye your Burlingame will ever have a Maiden to bequeath? 
Fie on that scoundrel! Mention his name no more to me, an't please ye, 
lest I suffer a stroke!" 

"I am sorry/' said Ebenezer, who had mentioned Burlingame's name 
intentionally to observe his father's reaction: he now concluded it would 
be impolitic to describe in any detail his sojourn in London. "I know no 
way to show you how your magnanimity shames me for my failure. Send 
me back to Cambridge, if you will, and I swear on oath I'll not repeat my 
former errors." 

Andrew reddened. "Cambridge my arse! Tis Maryland shall be your 
Cambridge, and a field of sot-weed your library! And for diploma, if ye 
apply yourself, haply you'll frame a bill of exchange for ten thousandweight 
of Oronoco!" 

"You mean to send me to Maryland, then?" Ebenezer asked uncom- 
fortably. 

"Aye, to till the ground that spawned ye, but thou'rt by no means fit 
for't yet; I fear the University hath so addled and debilitated ye, you've 
not the head to manage an estate nor the back to till it. Twill take some 
doing to sweat Burlingame and the college out o' ye, but A man must vtdk 
ere he runs. What ye want's but an honest apprenticeship: I mean to send 
ye forthwith to London, to clerk for the merchant Peter Paggen. Study the 
ins and outs of the plantation trade, as did I and my father before me, 
and I swear 'twill stand ye in better stead than aught ye heard at Cam- 
bridge, when time comes for ye to take your place at Maiden!" 

Now this course of life was not one that Ebenezer would have chosen 
for himself but then neither was any other, and he had no grounds for 
refusing this or any proposal, for when he looked within himself he found 
such a motley host of opinions, of all ilks and stamps, anarchic and shifting, 
that to mark the strongest was a thing beyond him. Moreover, when he 
reflected upon it, he was not blind to a certain attractiveness about the 
planter's life as he envisioned it: he could see himself inspecting the labor 
of the fields from the back of his favorite riding-horse; smoking the tobacco 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [51] 

that made him wealthy; drinking quince or perry from his own distillery 
with a few refined companions; whiling away the idle evenings on the 
gallery of his manor-house, remarking the mallards out on the river, and 
perhaps composing occasional verses of ease and dignity. He was, alas, not 
blind to the attractiveness of any kind of life. And more immediately, the 
prospect of returning to London with a clear conscience pleased him. 

Therefore he said, halfheartedly but not cheerlessly, "Just: as you wish, 
Father. I shall try to do well." 

"Why, thank Heav'n for that!" Andrew declared, and even contrived a 
thin smile. " 'Thus far hath the Lord helped usl' Leave me now for the 
nonce, ere I collapse from very weariness." 

Andrew settled back in bed, turned his face to the wall, and said no more. 



5: EBENEZER COMMENCES HIS SECOND SOJOURN 
IN LONDON, AND FARES UNSPECTACULARLY 



BECAUSE OF THE GREAT UNREST IN THE NATION AT THIS TIME, OCCASIONED 

by the conflict between James II and William of Orange, Ebenezer, at his 
father's advice, did not return toiondon until the winter of 1688, by which 
time William and Mary were securely established on the throne of Eng- 
land. The idle year at St. Giles was, although he had no way of realizing 
it at the time, perhaps Ebenezer's nearest approach to happiness. He had 
nothing at all to do except read, walk about the countryside or London- 
without-the-walls, and talk at length with his sister. Although he could not 
look to his future with enthusiasm, at least he had not to bear the respon- 
sibility of having chosen it himself. In the spring and summer, when the 
weather turned fine, he grew too restless even to read. He felt full to burst- 
ing with ill-defined potentialities. Often he would sit a whole morning in 
the shade of a pear tree behind the house playing airs on the tenor re- 
corder, whose secrets he had learned from Burlingame. He cared for no 
sports; he wished not even to see anyone, except Anna. The air, drenched 
with sun and clover, made him volatile. On several occasions he was so 
full of feeling as to fear he'd swoon if he could not empty himself of it. 
But often as he tried to set down verses, he could not begin: his fancy 
would not settle on stances and conceits. He spent the warm months in 



[ 52 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

a kind of nervous exaltation which, while more upsetting than pleasurable 
at the moment, left a sweet taste in his mouth at day's end. In the evenings, 
often as not, he would watch meteors slide down the sky till he grew dizzy. 

And though again he could not know it at the time, this idle season 
afforded him what was to be his last real communion with his sister for 
many a year. Even so, it was for the most part inarticulate; somewhere they'd 
lost the knack of talking closely to each other. Of the things doubtless most 
important to each they spoke not at all Ebenezer's failure at Cambridge 
and his impending journey; Anna's uncertain past connection with 
Burlingame and her present isolation from and lack of interest in suitors 
of any sort. But they walked together a great deal, and one hot forenoon 
in August, as they sat under a sycamore near a rocky little stream-branch 
that ran through the property, Anna clutched his right arm, pressed her 
forehead to it, and wept for several minutes. Ebenezer comforted her as 
best he could without inquiring the reason for her tears: he assumed it was 
some feeling about their maturity that grieved her. At this time, in their 
twenty-second year of life, Anna looked somewhat older* than her brother, 

Andrew, once his son's affairs seemed secure, grew gradually stronger, 
and by autumn was apparently in excellent health again, though for the 
rest of his life he looked older than his years. In early November he de- 
clared the political situation stable enough to warrant the boy's departure; 
a week later Ebenezer bade the household good-bye and set out for 
London. 

The first thing he did, after finding lodging for himself in a Pudding 
Lane boardinghouse, was visit Burlingame's address, to see how his old 
friend fared. But to his surprise he found the premises occupied by new 
tenantsa draper and his family and none of the neighbors knew any- 
thing of Henry's whereabouts. That evening, therefore, when he'd seen to 
the arrangement of his belongings, he went to Locket's, hoping to find 
there, if not Burlingame himself, at least some of their mutual acquaintances 
who might have news of him. 

He found three of the group to which Burlingame had introduced him. 
One was Ben Oliver, a great fat poet with beady eyes and black curly 
hair, arrogant and energetic, a very rakehell, who some said was a Jew. 
Another was Tom Trent, a short sallow boy from Christ's College, also a 
poet: he'd been sent to prepare for the ministry, but had so loathed the 
idea that he caught French pox from a doxy he kept in his quarters by 
way of contempt for his calling, and was finally dismissed upon his spread- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 53 ] 

ing the contagion to his tutor and at least two professors who had befriended 
him. Since then he'd come to take a great interest in religion: he liked no 
poets save Dante and Milton, maintained a virtual celibacy, and in his 
cups was wont to shout verses of Scripture at the company in his great bass 
voice. The third, Dick Merriweather, was despite his surname a gloojny 
pessimist, ever contemplating suicide, who wrote only elegiac verse on the 
subject of his own demise. Whatever the disparity in their temperaments, 
however, the three men lived in the same house and were almost always 
found together. 

"I'God, 'tis Eben Cooke the scholar!" cried Ben upon seeing him. "Have 
a bottle with us, fellow, and teach us the Truth!" 
"We thought you dead," said Dick. 

Tom Trent said nothing: he was unmoved by greetings and farewells. 
Ebenezer returned their greetings, drank a drink with them, and, after 
explaining his return to London, inquired after Burlingame. 

"We've seen none of him for a year," Ben said. "He left us shortly after 
you did, and I'd have said the twain of you were off together on some 
lark." 

"I recall hearing he'd gone to sea again," Dick Merriweather said. "Belike 
he's at the bottom oft ere now, or swimming in the belly of a whale." 

"Stay," said Ben. "Now I think on't, didn't I have it from Tom here 
'twas Trinity College Henry went back to, to earn his baccalaureate?" 

" 'Twas what I had from Joan Toast, that had it from Henry the last 

night ere he left," Tom said indifferently. "I'll own I pay scant heed to 

gossip of goings and comings, and 'tis not impossible I misheard her." 

"Who is this Joan Toast then, pray, and where might I find her?" asked 

Ebenezer. 

"No need to seek her' 9 Ben laughed; "she's but a merry whore of the 
place, and you may ask what you will of her anon, when she comes in to 
find a bedfellow." 

Ebenezer waited until the girl arrived, and learned only that Burlingame 
had spoken of his intention to ransack the libraries of Cambridge for a 
fortnight for what purpose she did not know, nor did any amount of in- 
quiry around the winehouse shed more light on his intentions or present 
whereabouts. During the next week Ebenezer lost no opportunity to ask 
after his friend, but when it became clear that no clues were to be found, 
he reluctantly abandoned his efforts, wrote Anna a distressed note inform- 
ing her of the news, and in the following months and years came almost to 



[ tA ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

forget Henry's existence though to be sure, he felt the loss acutely when- 
ever the name occurred to him. 

Meanwhile, he presented himself at the establishment of the merchant 
Peter Paggen, and, on producing letters from his father, was set to totting 
up accounts with the junior apprentices at a little desk among many others 
in a large room. It was understood that if he applied himself diligently and 
showed some ability in his work, he would be promoted after a week or so 
to a post from which he could observe to better advantage the workings of 
the plantation trade (Mr. Paggen had extensive dealings in Maryland and 
Virginia). Unfortunately, this promotion was never granted him. For one 
thing, no matter how hard he tried, Ebenezer could not concentrate his 
attention on the accounts. He would begin to add a column of totally 
meaningless figures and realize five minutes later that he'd been staring at 
a wen on the neck of the boy in front of him, or rehearsing in his mind a 
real or imaginary conversation between himself and Burlingame, or draw- 
ing mazes on a bit of scratch-paper. For the same reason, though he had 
by no means the troublemaker's temperament, his untamable fancy more 
than once led him to be charged with irresponsibility: one day, for example, 
scarcely conscious of what he was about, he involved himself entirely in a 
game with a small black ant that had wandered across the page. The rule of 
the game, which he invested with the inexorability of natural law, was that 
every time the ant trod unwittingly upon a 3 or a 9, Ebenezer would close 
his eyes and tap the page thrice, smartly and randomly, with the point of 
his quill. Although his role of Deus civi NatUTa precluded mercy, his senti- 
ments were unequivocally on the side of the ant: with an effort that brought 
sweat to his brow he tried by force of thought to steer the hapless creature 
from dangerous numbers; he opened his eyes after every series of taps, half 
afraid to look at the paper. The game was profoundly exciting. After some 
ten or fifteen minutes the ant had the bad luck to be struck by a drop of 
ink not a half inch from the 9 that had triggered the bombardment: flailing 
blindly, he inked a tiny trail straight back to the 9 again, and this time, 
after being bracketed by the first two taps, he was smitten squarely with 
the third. Ebenezer looked down to find him curled and dying in the loop 
of the digit. Tears of compassion, tempered with vast understanding and 
acceptance of the totality of life and the unalterable laws of the universe, 
welled in his eyes; his genital stiffened. At last the ant expired. Suddenly 
self-conscious, Ebenezer glanced around to see whether anyone had no- 
ticed him, and everyone in the room laughed aloud; they had witnessed 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 55 ] 

the whole performance. From that day on they regarded him as more or 
less mad instead of simply odd; luckily for Ebenezer, however, they be- 
lieved him to have some special connection with their employer Mr. 
Paggen, and so made little of the incident except among themselves. 

But it would not be fair to suggest that Ebenezer was entirely responsi- 
ble for his impasse. There were a few occasions during the first year when 
he managed to do his work satisfactorily, even intelligently, for several 
weeks running, and yet no mention was made of transferring him to the 
promised post. Only once did he muster courage enough to inquire about 
it: Mr. Paggen made him a vague reply which he accepted eagerly, in order 
to terminate the interview, and never spoke of it again. Actually, except 
for infrequent twinges of conscience, Ebenezer was quite content to 
languish among the junior apprentices: he had learned the job and was 
frightened at the prospect of learning another. Moreover, he found the 
city suited to his languor; his free hours he spent with his friends in the 
coffee-houses, taverns, or theaters. Now and again he devoted a Sunday, 
without much success, to his writing-desk. And in general he came quite to 
forget what it was he was supposed to be doing in London. 

It was withal a curious time in his life. If not actually satisfying, the 
routine was at any rate in no way unpleasant, and Ebenezer floated along 
in it like a fitful sleeper in a warm wash of dreams. Often, chameleonlike, 
he was but a reflection of his situation: were his companions boasting the 
tenuousness of their positions he might declare, in a burst of camaraderie^ 
"Shpuld old Andy discover my situation, 'twould be off to Maryland with 
me, sirs, and no mistake!" As often he went out of his way to differ with 
them, and half-yearned for the bracing life of the plantations. Still other 
times he'd sit like a stuffed stork all the afternoon without a word. So, one 
day cocksure, one day timorous; one day fearless, one craven; now the natty 
courtier, now the rumpled poet and devil the hue that momently colored 
him, he'd look a-fidget at the rest of the spectrum. For what's red to a 
rainbow? 

All of which is to say, if you wish, that insofar as to be is to be in essence 
the same Johnny-come-Friday that was John o' Thursday, why, this 
Ebenezer Cooke was no man at all. As for Andrew, he must have been 
incurious about his boy's life in London, or else believed that A good post 
is worth a long wait. The idyl lasted not for one, but for five or six years, 
or until 1694 in the March of which, when a disastrous wager brought it 
to a sudden end, our story begins. 



6: THE MOMENTOUS WAGER BETWEEN EBENEZER 
AND BEN OLIVER, AND ITS UNCOMMON RESULT 



PIMP IN EBENEZER'S CIRCLE WAS ONE WIRY, RED-HAIRED, BEFRECKLED 
ex-Dubliner named John McEvoy, twenty-one years old and devoid of 
school education, as long in energy and resourcefulness as short in money 
and stature, who spent his days abed, his evenings pimping for his privileged 
companions, and the greater part of his nights composing airs for the lute 
and flute, and who from the world of things that men have valued prized 
none but three: his mistress Joan Toast (who, whore as well, was both his 
love and his living), his music, and his liberty. No one-crown frisker Joan, 
but a two-guinea hen well worth the gold to bed her, as knew every man 
among them but Ebenezer; she loved her John for all he was her pimp, 
and he her truly too for all she was his whore for no man "was ever fust 
a. pimp, nor any woman merely whore. They seemed, in fact, a devoted 
couple, and jealous. 

All spirit, imagination,, and brave brown eyes, small-framed, large- 
breasted, and tight-skinned (though truly somewhat coarse-pored, and 
stringy in the hair, and with teeth none of the best), this Joan Toast was 
his for the night who'd two guineas to take her for, and indignify her as 
he would, she'd give him his gold's worth and more, for she took that 
pleasure in her work as were she the buyer and he the vendor; but come 
morning she was cold as a fish and back to her Johnny McEvoy, and should 
her lover of the night past so much as wink eye at her in the light of day, 
there was no more Joan Toast for him at any price. 

Ebenezer had of course observed her for some years as she and his com- 
panions came and went in their harlotry, and from the talk in the coffee- 
house had got to know about her in great detail at second hand a number 
of things that his personal disorganization precluded learning at first. When 
m manly moments he thought of her at all it was merely as a tart whom, 
should he one day find himself single-minded enough, it might be sweet 
to hire to initiate him at long last into the mysteries. For it happened that, 
though near thirty, Ebenezer was yet a virgin, and this for the reason ex- 
plained in the previous chapters, that he was no person at all: he could 
picture any kind of man taking a woman-the bold as well as the bashful, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 57 ] 

the clean green boy and the dottermg gray lecher and work out in his 
mind the speeches appropriate to each under any of several sorts of cir- 
cumstances. But because he felt himself no more one of these than another 
and admired all, when a situation presented itself he could never choose 
one role to play over all the rest he knew, and so always ended up either 
turning down the chance or, what was more usually the case, retreating 
gracelessly and in confusion, if not always embarrassment. Generally, there- 
fore, women did not give him a second glance, not because he was uncomely 
he had marked well that some of the greatest seducers have the faces of 
goats and the manner of lizards but because, a woman having taken in 
his ungainly physique, there remained no other thing for her to notice. 

Indeed he might have gone virgin to his grave for there are urgencies 
that will be heeded if not one way then perforce another, and that same 
knuckly hand that penned him his couplets took no wooing to make his 
quick mistress but on this March night in 1694 he was noticed by Joan 
Toast, in the following manner: the gallants were sitting in a ring at 
Locket's,, as was their custom, drinking wine, gossiping, and boasting their 
conquests, both of the muse and of lesser wenches. There were Dick 
Merriweather, Tom Trent, and Ben Oliver already well wined, Johnny 
McEvoy and Joan Toast out for a customer, and Ebenezer incom* 
municado. 

"Heigh-ho!" sighed Dick at a lull in their talk. " Twere a world one 
could live in did wealth follow wit, for gold's the best bait to snare sweet 
conies with, and then we poets were fearsome trappers all!" 

"No need gold," replied Ben, "did God but give women half an eye for 
their interests. What makes your good lover, if not fire and fancy? And for 
whom if not us poets are fire and fancy the very stock in trade? From 
which 'tis clear, that of all men the poet is most to be desired as a lover: if 
his mistress have beauty, his is the eye will most be gladdened by't; if she 
have it not, his is the imagination that best can mask its lack. If she displease 
him, and he slough her off shortly* she hath at least had for a time the best 
that woman can get; if she please him, he will haply fix her beauty for 
good and all in verse, where neither age nor pox can spoil it. And as poets 
as a class are to be desired in this respect over other sorts of fellows, so 
should the best poet prove the best lover; were women wise to their in- 
terests they'd make seeking him out their life-work, and finding him would 
straight lay their favors a-quiver in his lap nay, upon his very writing-desk 
and beg him to look on 'em kindly!" 

"Out on't, thenl" said Dick to Joan Toast "Ben speaks truly, and 'tis 



[ 58 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

you shall pay me two guineas this night! Marry, and were't not that I am 
poor as any church mouse this week and have not long to live, you'd not 
buy immortality so cheap! My counsel is to snatch the bargain while it lasts, 
for a poet cannot long abide this world." 

To which Joan rejoined without heat, "Fogh! Could any man of ye 
rhyme as light as talk, or swive grand as swagger, why, your verse'd be on 
every lip in London and your arse in every bed, I swear! But Talk pays no 
toll: I look to pacify nor ear nor bum with aught o' ye but my sweet John, 
who struts not a strut nor brags no brags, but saves words for his melodies 
and strength for the bed." 
"Hi!" applauded Ben. "Well put!" 

"If ill timed," John McEvoy added, frowning lightly upon her. "Let no 
such sentiments come 'twixt thee and two guineas this night, love, or thy 
sweet John'll have nor strength nor song, but a mere rumbly gut to bed ye 
with on the morrow." 

" 'Sblood!" remarked Tom Trent without emotion. "If Lady Joan reason 
rightly, there's one among us who far more merits her favor than you, 
McEvoy, for as you speak one word to our two, so speak you ten to his one: 
I mean yon Ebenezer, who for lack of words should be chiefest poet and 
cocksman in this or any winehouse John Milton and Don Juan Tenorio 
in a single skin!" 

"Indeed he may be," vowed Joan, who, being by chance seated next to 
Ebenezer, gave him a pat on the hand. 

"At any rate," smiled McEvoy, "having heard not a line of his making, 
I've no evidence he's not a poet." 

"Nor I he's not that other," Joan added smartly, "and 'tis more praise 
on both counts than I can praise the rest o y ye." Then she colored some- 
what and added: "I must own I've heard it said, Many fat but love lean, 
for as how your fat fellow is most often a jolly and patient husband, but 
your bony lank is long all over and springy in the bed. Howbeit, I've no 
proof of the thing." 

"Then 'sdeath, you shall have it!" cried Ben Oliver, "for there's more 
to extension than simple length. When the subject in hand's the tool of 
love, prithee give weight to the matter of diameter, for diameter's what 
gives weight to love's tool-whether 'tis in hand or in the subject, for that 
matter! Nay, lass, I'll stick by my fat, as't hath stuck by me. A plump cock's 
the very devil of the hen house, so they say: he treads 'em with authority!" 
"Tis too weighty a question to leave unsettled," declared McEvoy. 
"What think you, Tom?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 59 ] 

"I take no interest in affairs of the flesh/' said Tom, "but I have e'er 
observed that women, like men, have chiefest relish in things forbidden, 
and prize no conquest like that of a priest or saint. Tis my guess, moreover, 
that they find their trophy doubly sweet, inasmuch as 'tis hard come by to 
begin with, and when got 'tis fresh and potent as vintage brandy, for having 
been so long bottled and corked." 

"Dick?" 

"I see no sense in it," Merriweather said. " Tis not a man's weight, but 
his circumstances, that make him a lover. The sweetest lover of all, I should 
think, is the man about to end his life, who would by the act of love bid 
his adieu to this world, and at the moment of greatest heat pass on the 
next." 

"Well, now," McEvoy said, "ye owe it to England to put an answer to't. 
What I propose is this, that ye put each your best foot forward, so to speak, 
this same night, and let Joan take eight guinea from him she names loser. 
Thus the winner gets glory for him and his kind and a swiving to boot; 
the losers get still a swiving ay, a double swiving! and my good woman 
and I get chops instead of chitterlings for a day. Done?" 

"Not I," said Tom. " Tis a sorry sport, is lust, that makes man a slavering 
animal on embracing his mistress and a dolorous vegetable after." 

"Nor I," said Dick, "for had I eight guineas I'd hire three trollops and a 
bottle of Madeira for one final debauch ere I end my life." 

"Marry, 'tis done for all o' me," said Ben, "and heartily, too, for your 
Joan's had none of old Ben these two months past." 

"Nor shall I more," swore Joan cheerfully, "for thou'rt a sweatbox and 
a stinkard, sir. My memory of our last will serve as your performance, when 
I came away bruised and abused as a spaniel bitch from a boar's pen, and 
had need of a course of liniments to drive out the aches and a course of 
hot baths to carry off the smell. For the rest of the wager, 'tis Mr. Cooke's 
to yea or nay." 

"So be't," shrugged Ben, "though had I known at the time 'twas that 
studding I'd be judged by, you'd have found me more bull than boar and 
haply have a Minotaur to show for't. What say you, Ebenezer?" 

Now Ebenezer had followed this raillery intently and would have joined 
in it, perhaps, but that from his overstocked wardrobe no particular style 
came readily to hand. Then, when Joan Toast touched him, the hand she 
touched tingled as if galvanized, and on the instant Ebenezer felt his 
soul rise up in answer. Had not Boyle shown, and Burlingame taught, 
that electrical attraction takes place in a vacuum? Well, here was Boyle 



[ 60 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

figured in the empty poet: the pert girl worked some queer attraction in 
him, called forth a spark from the vacuum of his character, and set him all 
suddenly a-burn and a-buzz. 

But did this prick-up afford the man identity? On the contrary: as he 
saw the direction the twitting took and heard McEvoy give birth to the 
wager, he but buzzed and burned the more; his mind ran madly to no 
end like a rat in a race and could not engage the situation. His sensibility 
all erected and hard at attention, he could feel the moment coming when 
the eyes of all would swing to bear on him with some question which he'd 
be expected to answer. It was the wait for it, together with the tingle of 
Joan Toast's touch and the rush to find a face to meet the wager with, that 
made him sick when his ears heard Ben's "What say you, Ebenezer?" and 
his two eyes saw ten look to him for reply. 

What say? What say? His windpipe glotted with a surfeit of alternatives; 
but did he urge one up like a low-pressured belch,, the suck of the rest 
ungassed it. Eyes grew quizzical; smiles changed character. Ebenezer 
reddened, not from embarrassment but from internal pressure. 

"What ails ye, friend?" McEvoy. 

"Speak up, man!" Ben Oliver. 

"'Swounds! Hell pop!" Dick Merriweather. 

One Cooke eyebrow fluttered. A mouth-corner ticked. He closed and 
unclosed his hands and his mouth, and the strain near retched him, but it 
was all a dry heave, a false labor: no person issued from it. He gaped and 
sweated. 

"Gah," he said. 

"'Sbloodl" Tom Trent. "He's ill! Tis the vapors! The fellow wants a 
clyster!" 

"Ga/i," said Ebenezer again, and then froze tight and said no more, nor 
moved a single muscle. 

By this time his behavior had been noticed by the other patrons of the 
winehouse, and a number of the curious gathered round him where he sat, 
now rigid as a statue. 

"Hi, there, throw't off!" demanded one fellow, snapping his fingers di- 
rectly before Ebenezer's face. 

"'Tis the wine has dagged him, belike," a wag suggested, and tweaked 
the poet's nose, also without effect. "Aye," he affirmed, "the lad's bepickled 
himself with't. Mark ye, 'tis the fate awaits us all!" 

"As you please," declared Ben Oliver with a grin; "I say 'tis a plain case 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 6l ] 

of the staggering fearfuls, and I claim the victory by default, and there's an 
end on't." 

"Aye, but what doth it profit you?" Dick Merriweather asked. 

"What else but Joan Toast this night?" laughed Ben, slapping three 
guineas onto the table. "Upon your honor as judge,, John McEvoy, will 
you refuse me? Test my coins, fellow: they'll ring true as the next man's, 
and there's three of 'em." 

McEvoy shrugged his shoulders and looked inquiringly at his Joan. 

"Not in a pig's arse," she sniffed. She flounced from her chair and with 
a wink at the company flung her arms around Ebenezer's neck and ca- 
ressed his cheek. 

"Ah, me ducky, me dove!" she cooed. "Will ye leave me to the mercies of 
yon tub o' suet, to lard like any poor partridge? Save me, sirl" 

But Ebenezer sat unmoved and unmoving. 

"Tis no lardoon thou'rt in for," Ben said. "Tis the very spit!" 

"Ah! Ah!" cried Joan as though terrified and, clambering onto Ebene- 
zer's lap, hid her face in his neck. "I shake and I shiver!" 

The company shouted with delight. Joan grasped one of Ebenezer's 
large ears in each hand and drew his face nose to nose with her own. 

"Carry me off!" she implored him. 

"To the spit with her!" urged an onlooker. "Baste the hussy!" 

"Aye," said Ben, and crooked his finger at her. "Come along now, 
sweetmeat." 

"As ye be a man and a poet, Eben Cooke," Joan scolded, jumping to her 
feet and shouting in his ear, "I lay it upon ye to match this rascal's gold 
with your own and have done with't. If ye will not speak up and act the 
man, I'm Ben's and be damned t'ye!" 

Ebenezer gave a slight start and suddenly stood up, blinking as if just 
roused from bed. His features twitched, and he alternately blushed and 
paled as he opened his mouth to speak. 

"I had five guineas but this morning by messenger from my father, 7 ' he 
said weakly. 

"Thou'rt a fool," said Dick Merriweather. "She asks but three, and 
had you spoke sooner 'twould've cost you but two!" 

"Will ye raise him two bob, Ben?" asked John McEvoy, who had been 
watching the proceedings serenely. 

"Indeed he shan't!" snapped Joan. "Is this a horse auction, then, and 
I a mare to be rid by the high bidder?" She took Ebenezer's arm fondly. 



[ g 2 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Only match Ben's three guineas, ducky, and speak no more oft The 
night's near done, and I am ill o' this lewd raillery." 

Ebenezer gawked, swallowed, and shifted his weight 

"I cannot match it here," he said, "for I've but a crown in my purse." He 
glanced around him wildly. "The money is in my rooms," he added, teeter- 
ing as if to swoon. "Come with me there, and you shall have't all" 

"Hello, the lad's no fool!" said Tom Trent. "He knows a thing or two!" 

"'Sblood, a very Jew!" agreed Dick Merriweather. 

"Better a fowl in hand than two flying" Ben Oliver laughed, and jingled 
his three guineas. "'Tis a hoax and fraud, to lure honest women to their 
ruin! What would your father say, Ebenezer, did he get wind oft? Shame^ 
shame!" 

"Pay the great ass no heed," said Joan. 

Ebenezer swayed again, and several of the company tittered. 

"I swear to you " he began. 

"Shame! Shame!" cried Ben once more, wagging a fat finger at him to 
the company's delight 

Ebenezer tried again, but could do no more than raise his hand and let 
it fall. 

"Stand off!" someone warned uneasily. "He is starching up again!" 

"Shame!" roared Ben. 

Ebenezer goggled at Joan Toast for a second and then lurched full speed 
across the room and out of the winehouse. 



7: THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN EBENEZER AND 
THE WHORE JOAN TOAST, INCLUDING THE TALE OF 
THE GREAT TOM LEECH. 



AS A RULE EBENEZER WOULD AFTER SUCH A BUMBLE HAVE BEEN IN FOR 

some hours of motionless reflection in his room. It was his habit (for such 
rigidities as this at Locket's were not new to him) upon recovering himself 
to sit at his writing-desk, looking-glass in hand, and stare fish-eyed at his 
face, which only during such spells was still. But this time, though he did 
indeed take up his vis-a-vis> the face he regarded was anything but vacant: 
on the contrary, where typically he'd have seen a countenance blank as an 
owl's, now he saw a roil as of swallows round a chimney pot; whereas an- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 63 ] 

other time he'd have heard in his head but a cosmic rustle, as though 
his skull were a stranded wentletrap, now he sweated, blushed, and dreamed 
two score ragged dreams. He studied the ears Joan Toast had touched, as 
though by study to restore their tingle, and when he could by no means 
succeed, he recognized with alarm that it was his heart she now had 
hands on. 

"Ah God/' he cried aloud, "that I'd risen to the wager!" 

The manly sound of his voice arrested him. Moreover, it was the first 
time he'd ever spoken to himself aloud, and he failed to be embarrassed 
by it. 

"Had I but another chance," he declared to himself, "'twould be no 
chore to snatch the moment! Lord, into what ferment have those eyes put 
me! Into what heat those bosoms!" 

He took up the glass again, made himself a face, and inquired, "Who art 
thou now, queer fellow? Hi, there is a twitch in thy blood, I see a fidget 
in thy soul! Twere a right manly man Joan Toast would taste, were the 
wench but here to taste him!" 

It occurred to him to return to Locket's to seek her out, on the chance 
she'd not have succumbed to Ben Oliver's entreaties. But he was reluctant 
to confront his friends so soon after his flight, in the first place, and in the 
second 

"Curse me for my innocence!" he railed, pounding his fist upon some 
blank papers on the writing-desk. "What knowledge have I of such things? 
Suppose she should come with me? 'Sblood! What then? 

"Yet 'tis now or never," he told himself grimly. "This Joan Toast sees in 
me what no woman hath before, nor I myself: a man like other men. And 
for aught I know she hath made me one, for when else have I talked to 
myself? When else felt so potent? To Locket's," he ordered himself, "or go 
virgin to the grave!" 

Nevertheless he did not get up, but lapsed instead into lecherous, com- 
plicated reveries of rescue and gratitude; of shipwreck or plague and mutual 
survivorship; of abduction, flight, and violent assault; and, sweetest of all, of 
towering fame and casual indulgence. When at length he realized that he 
was not going to Locket's at all, he was overcome with self-loathing and 
returned, in despair, once more to the mirror. 

He calmed at the sight of the face in it. 

"Odd fellow, there! Ooo-ooo/ Hey-nonny-nonny! Fa-la!" 

He leered and mouthed into the glass until his eyes brimmed with tears, 



[64] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

and then, exhausted, buried his face in his long aims. Presently he fell 
asleep. 

There came, an uncertain time later, a knocking at the entrance door 
below, and before Ebenezer was awake enough to wonder at it, his own 
door was opened by his servant, Bertrand, who had been sent to him just a 
few days earlier by his father. This Bertrand was a thin-faced, wide-eyed 
bachelor in his later forties whom Ebenezer knew scarcely at all, for 
Andrew had hired him while the young man was still at Cambridge. With 
him, when he had come from the St. Giles establishment, he had brought 
the following note from Andrew, in an envelope sealed with wax: 

Ebenezer, 

The Bearer of this note is Bertrand Burton, my Valet since 1686, and now 
yours, if you want him. He is a diligent enough fellow, if something presump- 
tuous, and will make you a good man if you hold him to his place. Mrs Twigg 
and he got on ill together, to the point where I had either to sack him or 
lose her, without whom I could scarce manage my house. Yet deeming it a hard 
matter to sack the fellow outright, whose only fault is, that though he never 
forgets his work, he oft forgets his place, I have promoted him out of my service 
into yours. I shall pay him his first quarters wage; after that, if you want him, 
I presume your post with Paggen will afford him. 

Though his current wage from Peter Paggen, which was precisely what 
it had been in 1688, was barely adequate to keep himself, Ebenezer none- 
theless had welcomed Bertrand's service, at least for the three months dur- 
ing which it was to cost him nothing. Luckily, the room adjoining his own 
was unoccupied at the time, and he had arranged with his landlord for 
Bertrand to lodge there, where he was always within call. 

Now the man stepped into the room in nightshirt and cap, all smiles and 
winks, said, "A lady to see you, sir/' and, to Ebenezer's great surprise, 
ushered Joan Toast herself into the room. 

"I shall retire at once," he announced, winking again, and left them be- 
fore Ebenezer could recover sufficiently to protest. He was extremely 
embarrassed and not a little alarmed at being alone with her, but Joan, not 
a whit disturbed, came over to where he still sat at the writing table and 
bussed him lightly upon the cheek. 

"Say not a word/' she ordered, taking off her hat. "I know well I'm 
tardy, and I ask your pardon for't." 

Ebenezer sat dumb, too astonished to speak. Joan strode blithely to the 
windows, closed the curtains, and commenced undressing. 

Tis your friend Ben Oliver's to blame, with his three guineas, and his 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 65 ] 

four guineas, and his five guineas, and his great hands both a-clench to lay 
hold on me! But a shilling o'er your five he couldn't offer, or wouldn't, and 
since 'twas you first offered it, I'm quit o' the brute with conscience clear." 

Ebenezer stared at her, head afire. 

"Come along now, sweet," Joan said presently, and turned to him 
entirely unclothed. "Put thy guineas upon the table and let's to bed. 
Faith, but there's a nip in the air this night! Brrr! Jump to't, now!" She 
sprang to the bed and snuggled under the coverlets, drawing them up 
around her chin. 

"Come along!" she said again, a bit more briskly. 

"Ah God, I cannot!" Ebenezer said. His face was rapturous, his eyes 
were wild. 

"Ye what?" Joan cried, throwing back the covers and sitting up in alarm. 

"I cannot pay thee," Ebenezer declared. 

"Not pay me! What prank is this, sir, ye make me butt of, when I have 
put off Ben Oliver and his five gold guineas? Out with thy money now, 
Master Cooke, and off with thy breeches, and prank me no pranks!" 

"Tis no prank, Joan Toast," said Ebenezer. "I cannot pay thee five 
guineas, or four guineas, or three. I cannot pay thee a shilling.. Nay, not so 
much as a farthing." 

"What! Are ye paupered, then?" She gripped his shoulders as if to shake 
him. "Marry, sir, open wide those great cow's eyes, that I may claw them 
from out their sockets! Think ye to make a fool o' me?" She swung her 
legs over the side of the bed. 

"Nay, nay, lady!" Ebenezer cried,, falling to his knees before her. "Nay, 
I have the five guineas, and more. But how price the priceless? How buy 
Heaven with simple gold? Ah, Joan Toast, ask me not to cheapen thee so! 
Was't for gold that silver-footed Thetis shared the bed of Peleus, Achilles' 
sire? Think thee Venus and Anchises did their amorous work on considera- 
tion of five guineas? Nay, sweet Joan, a man seeks not in the market for the 
favors of a goddess!" 

"Let foreign bawds run their business as't please 'em," Joan declared, 
somewhat calmer. " 'Tis five guineas the night for this one, and pay ere ye 
play. Do ye reckon it cheap, then pleasure in thy bargain: 'tis all one to 
me. What a temper ye put me in with thy not a farthing! I had near 
leaped ye! Come along, now, and save thy conceits for a love sonnet in the 
morning." 

"Ah, dear God, Joan, wilt thou not see?" said Ebenezer, still down upon 
his knees. " 'Tis not for common sport I crave thee, as might another: such 



[66] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

lechery I leave to mere gluttonous whoremongers like Ben Oliver. What I 
crave of thee cannot be bought!" 

"Aha/' smiled Joan, "so 'tis a matter o' strange tastes, is't? Fd not have 
guessed it by the honest look o' ye, but think not so quickly 'tis out o' the 
question. Well do I know There's more -ways to the woods than one, and 
if t work no great or lasting hurt, why, 'tis but a matter o 7 price to me, sir. 
Name me thy game, and I'll fix thee thy fee/' 

"Joan, Joan, put by this talk!" cried Ebenezer, shaking his head, "Can 
you not see it tears my heart? What's past is past; I cannot bear to think 
on't, how much the less hear it from thy sweet lips! Dear girl, I swear to thee 
now I am a virgin, and as I come to thee pure and undefiled, so in my 
mind you come to me; whate'er hath gone before, speak not of it. Nay!" 
he warned, for Joan's mouth dropped open. "Nay, not a word oft, for 'tis 
over and done. Joan Toast, I love thee! Ah, that startles thee! Aye, I swear 
to Heaven I love thee, and 'twas to declare it I wished thee here. Speak no 
more of your awful trafficking, for I love thy sweet body unspeakably, and 
that spirit which it so fairly houses, unimaginably!" 

"Nay, Mr. Cooke, 'tis an unbecoming jest ye make, to call thyself virgin," 
Joan said doubtfully. 

"As God is my witness," swore Ebenezer, "I have known no woman 
carnally to this night, nor ever loved at all." 

"But how is that?" Joan demanded. "Why, when I was but a slip of a 
thing, not yet fourteen and innocent of the world's villainy, I recall I once 
cried out at table how I had commenced a queer letting of blood, and 
what was I ill of? And send quick for the leeches! And everyone laughed 
and made strange jests, but none would tell me what was the cause oft 
Then my young bachelor uncle Harold approached me privily, and kissed 
me upon the lips and stroked my hair, and told me 'twas no common 
leech I wanted, for that I was letting much blood already; but that anon 
when I had stopped I should come to him in secret, for he kept in his 
rooms a great torn leech such as I had ne'er yet been bit by, the virtue of 
which was, that it would restore by sweet infusions what I had lost. I be- 
lieved without question all that he told me, for he was a great favorite o' 
mine, more brother than uncle to me, and therefore I said naught to any- 
one, but directly the curse left me went straight to his bedchamber, as he 
had prescribed. 'Where is the great torn leech?' I asked him. 4 I have't ready/ 
said he, *but it fears the light and will do its work only in darkness. Make 
thyself ready,' said he, 'and I'll apply the leech where it must go/ *Very well,' 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [67] 

said I, "but ye must tell me how to ready myself, Harold, for I know naught 
of leeching/ 'Disrobe thyself/ said he, 'and lie down upon the bed/ 

"And so I stripped myself all naked, simple soul that I was, right before 
his eyes, and lay down upon the bed as he directed a skinny pup I, as yet 
unbreasted and unfurred and he blew out the candle. 'Ah, dear Harold!' 
I cried. 'Come lie beside me on the bed, I pray, for I fear the bite o' thy 
great torn leech in the dark!' Harold made me no answer, but shortly joined 
me upon his bed. 'How is this?' I cried, feeling his skin upon me. 'Do you 
mean to take the leech as well? Did you too lose blood?' 'Nay/ he laughed, 
' 'tis but the manner whereby my leech must be applied. I have't ready for 
ye, dear girl; are ye ready for't?' 'Nay, dear Harold,' I cried, 'I am fearful! 
Where will it bite me? How will it hurt?' ' 'Twill bite where it must/ said 
Harold, 'and 'twill pain ye a mere minute, and then pleasure ye enough/ 
'Ah, then,' I sighed, 'let us get by the pain and hasten the pleasure with all 
speed. But prithee hold my hand, lest I cry out at the creature's bite/ 
*Ye shan't cry out,' Harold said then, 'for I shall kiss ye/ 

"And straightway he embraced me and kissed my mouth tight shut, and, 
while we were a-kissing, suddenly I felt the great torn leech his fearful bite, 
and I was maiden no more! At first I wept, not alone from the pain he'd 
warned of, but from alarm at what I'd learned o' the leech's nature. But e'en 
as Harold promised, the pain soon flew, and his great torn leech took 
bite after bite till near sunup, by which time, though I was by no means 
weary o' the leeching, my Harold had no more leech to leech with, but only 
a poor cockroach or simple pismire, not fit for the work, which scurried 
away at the first light. Twas then I learned the queer virtue o' this animal: 
for just as a fleabite, the more ye scratch it, wants scratching the more, so, 
once this creature had bit me, I longed for futher bites and was forever after 
poor Harold and his leech, like an opium eater his phial. And though since 
then I've suffered the bite of every sort and size none more fearsome or 
ravenous than my good John's yet the craving plagues me still, till I shiver 
at the thought o' the great torn leech!" 

"Stop, I beg thee!" Ebenezer pleaded. "I cannot hear more! What, 'Dear 
Uncle/ you call him, and 'Poor Harold'! Ah, the knave, the scoundrel, 
to deceive you so, who loved and trusted him! Twas no leechery he put 
thee to, but lechery, and laid thy maiden body forever in the bed of harlotry! 
I curse him, and his ilk!" 

"Ye say't with relish," smiled Joan, "as one who'd do the like with fire 
in his eye and sweat on his arse, could he find himself a child fond as I. Nay, 
Ebenezer, rail not at poor dear Harold, who is these several years under the 



[ 68 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

sod from an ague got swiving ardently in cold chambers. Says I, 'tis but the 
nature o' the leech to bite and of the leeched to want biting, and 'tis 
a mystery and astonishment to me, since so many crave leeching and the 
best leech is so lightly surfeited, how yours hath gone starved, as ye declare, 
these thirty years! What, are ye a mere arrant sluggard, sir? Or are ye haply 
o' that queer sort who lust for none but their own sex? Tis a thing past 
grasping!" 

"Nor the one nor the other," replied Ebenezer. "I am man in spirit as 
well as body, and my innocence is not wholly my own choosing. I have 
ere now been ready enough, but to grind love's grain wants mortar as well 
as pestle; no man dances the morris dance alone^ and till this night no 
woman e'er looked on me with favor." 

"Marry!" laughed Joan. "Doth the ewe chase the ram, or the hen the 
cock? Doth the field come to the plow for furrowing, or the scabbard to 
the sword for sheathing? 'Tis all arsy-turvy ye look at the world!" 

"That I grant," sighed Ebenezer, "but I know naught of the art of 
seduction, nor have the patience for't." 

"Fogh! There's no great labor to the bedding of women! For the most, 
all a man need do, I swear, is ask plainly and politely, did he but know it" 
"How is that?" exclaimed Ebenezer in astonishment "Are women then 
so lecherous?" 

"Nay," said Joan. "Think not we crave a swiving pure and simple at any 
time as do men always-'tis oft a pleasure with us, but rarely a passion. 
Howbeit, what with men forever panting at us like so many hounds at a 
salt-bitch, and begging us put by our virtue and give 'em a tumble, and 
withal despising us for whores and slatterns if we do; or bidding us be 
faithful to our husbands and yet losing no chance to cuckold their truest 
friends; or charging us to guard our chastity and yet assaulting it from all 
quarters in every alleyway, carriage, or sitting room; or being soon bored 
with us if we show no fire in swiving and yet sermoning us for sinners if we 
do; inventing morals on the one hand and rape on the other; and in general 
preaching us to virtue whilst they lure us on to vice-what with the pull and 
haul of all this, I say, we women are forever at sixes and sevens, all fussed 
and rattled and torn 'twixt what we ought and what we would, and so 
entirely confounded, that we never know what we think on the matter or 
how much license to grant from one minute to the next; so that if a man 
commence the usual strut, pat, and tweak, we may thrust him from us (if 
he do not floor us and have at us by main strength); and if he let us quite 
alone, we are so happy of the respite we dare not make a move; but should 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 69 ] 

e'er a man approach us in all honest friendship, and look upon us as fellow 
humans and not just a bum and a bosom, from eyes other than a stud- 
stallion's, and after some courteous talk should propose a cordial swiving as 
one might a hand of whist (instead of inviting us to whist as lecherously as 
though to bed) if, I say, e'er a man should learn to make such a request in 
such a manner, his bed would break 'neath the weight of grateful women, 
and he would grow gray ere his time! But in sooth 'twill never happen," 
Joan concluded, "forasmuch as 'twould mean receiving a partner and not 
taking a vassal: 'tis not mere sport a man lusts after, 'tis conquest- else 
philanderers were rare as the plague and not common as the pox. Do but 
ask, Ebenezer, cordially and courteously, as ye would ask a small favor from 
a good friend, and what ye ask shall rarely be refused. But ye must ask, else 
in our great relief at not being hard pressed for't, we shall pass ye by." 

"Indeed," admitted Ebenezer, shaking his head, "it had not struck me 
ere now, what a sad lot is woman's. What beasts we are!" 

"Ah, well," sighed Joan, " 'tis small concern o' mine, save when I reflect 
on't now and again: a whore loses little sleep on such nice questions. So 
long as a man hath my price in his purse and smells somewhat more sweet 
than a tanyard and leaves me in peace come morning, I shan't say him 
nay nor send him off ill-pleased with his purchase. And I love a virgin as a 
child loves a new pup, to make him stand and beg for't* or lie and play 
dead. Off your knees, then, and to bed with ye, ere ye take a quartan ague 
from the draught! There's many a trick I'll teach ye!" 

So saying she held out her arms to him, and Ebenezer, breaking at once 
into sweat and goose bumps from the contest between his ardor and the 
cold March draughts in which for a quarter hour he'd been kneeling, 
embraced her fervently. 

"Dear God, is't true?" he cried. "What astonishment it is, to be granted 
all suddenly in fact what one hath yearned for time out of mind in dreams! 
Dear heart, what a bewilderment! No words come! My arms fail me!" 

"Let not thy purse fail thee," Joan remarked, "and for the rest, leave't 
to me." 

"But 'fore God I love thee, Joan Toast!" Ebenezer moaned. "Can it be 
you think yet of the filthy purse?" 

"Do but pay me my five guineas ere ye commence," Joan said, "and then 
love me 'fore God or man, 'tis all one to me," 

"You will drive me to Bedlam with your five guineas!" Ebenezer shouted. 
"I love thee as never man loved woman, I swear't, and rather would I 
throttle thee, or suffer myself throttled, than turn my love to mere 



[y ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

whoremongering with that accursed five guineas! I will be thy vassal; I 
will fly with thee down the coasts of earth; I will deliver soul and body into 
thy hands for very love; but I will not take thee for my whore while breath 
is in me!" 

"Ah, then, 'tis after all a fraud and deceit!" Joan cried, her eyes flashing. 
'Te think to gull me with thee's and thy's and your prattle o' love and 
chastity! I say pay me my fee, Eben Cooke, or I'll leave ye this minute for 
ever and all; and 'tis many the hour ye'll curse your miserliness, when word 
oft reaches my Johnny McEvoy!" 

"I cannot/' Ebenezer said. 

"Then know that I despise ye for a knave and fool!" Joan jumped from 
the bed and snatched up her garments. 

"And know that I love thee for my savior and inspiration!" Ebenezer 
replied. "For ne'er till you came to me this night have I been a man, 
but a mere dotting oaf and fop; and ne'er till I embraced thee have I 
been a poet, but a shallow coxcomb and poetaster! With thee, Joan, 
what deeds could I not accomplish! What verse not write! Nay, e'en should 
you scorn me in your error and ne'er look on me more, I will love thee 
nonetheless, and draw power and purpose from my love. For so strong 
is't, that e'en unrequited it shall sustain and inspire me; but should God 
grant thee wit to comprehend and receive it and return it as then you 
would perforce, why, the world would hear such verses as have ne'er been 
struck, and our love would stand as model and exemplar to all times! Scorn 
me, Joan, and I shall be a splendid fool, a Don Quixote tilting for his 
ignorant Dulcinea; but I here challenge thee if you've life and fire and 
wit enough, love me truly as I love thee, and then shall I joust with bona 
fide giants and bring them low! Love me, and I swear to thee this: I shall 
be Poet Laureate of England!" 

"Methinks thou'rt a Bedlamite already," Joan snapped, hooking up her 
dress. "As for my ignorance, I had rather be fool than scoundrel, and yet 
rather scoundrel than madman, and in sooth I believe thou'rt all three in 
one skin. Mayhap I'm dolt enough not to grasp this grand passion ye make 
such claim to, but I've mother wit enough to see when I'm hoaxed and 
cheated. My John shall hear oft." 

"Ah Joan, Joan!" Ebenezer pleaded. "Are you then indeed unworthy? 
For I declare to thee solemnly: no man will e'er offer thee another such 
love." 

"Do but offer me my rightful fee, and I'll say not a word to John: the 
rest o' your offer ye may put back in your hat." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ Jl ] 

"So," sighed Ebenezer, still transported, "you are unworthy! So be't, ift 
must: I love thee no less for't, or for the sufferings I shall welcome in 
thy name!" 

"May ye suffer French pox, ye great ass!" Joan replied, and left the room 
in a heat. 

Ebenezer scarcely noted her departure, so full was he of his love; he 
strode feverishly about the bedchamber, hands clasped behind his back, 
pondering the depth and force of his new feeling. "Am I waked to the 
world from a thirty-year sleep?" he asked himself. "Or is't only now I've 
begun to dream? Surely none awake e'er felt such dizzy power, nor any 
man in dreams such bursting life! Hi! A song!" 

He ran to his writing-desk, snatched up his quill, and with little ado 
penned the following song: 

Not Priam for the ravagd Town of Troy, 

Andromache for her bouncing Baby Boy, 
Ulysses for his chaste Penelope, 

Bare the Love, dear Joan, I bear for Theel 

But as cold Semele pritfd Endymion, 

And Phaedra sweet Hippolytus her Step-Son, 

He being Virgin so, I pray may Ye 

Whom I love, love my stainless Chastity. 

For 'tis no niggard Gift, my Innocence, 

But one that, giv'n, defieth Recompense; 
No common Jewel pluck' d from glist'ring Hoard, 

But one that, taken, ne'er can be restored. 

Preserv'd, my Innocence preserveth Me 

From Life, from Time, from Death, from History; 

Without it I must breathe Man's mortal Breath: 

Commence a Life and thus commence my Death! 

When he was done composing he wrote at the bottom of the page 
Ebenezer Cooke, Gent., Poet and Laureate of England, just to try the 
look of it, and, regarding it, was pleased. 

" Tis now but a question of time," he rejoiced. "Faith, 'tis a rare wise 
man knows who he is: had I not stood firm with Joan Toast, I might well 
ne'er have discovered that knowledge! Did I, then, make a choice? Nay, 
for there was no I to make it! 'Twas the choice made me: a noble choice, 
to prize my love o'er my lust, and a noble choice bespeaks a noble chooser. 
What am I? What am I? Virgin, sir! Poet, sir! I am a virgin and a poet; less 



[ 72 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

than mortal and more; not a man, but Mankind! I shall regard my innocence 
as badge of my strength and proof of my calling: let her who's worthy oft 
take it from me!" 

Just then the servant Bertrand tapped softly on the door and entered, 
candle in hand, before Ebenezer had a chance to speak. 

"Should I retire now, sir?" he asked, and added with an enormous wink, 
"Or will there be more visitors?" 

Ebenezer blushed. "Nay,, nay, go to bed." 

'Very good, sir. Pleasant dreams." 

"How's that?" 

But Bertrand, with another great wink, closed the door. 

"Really," Ebenezer thought, "the fellow is presumptuous!" He returned 
to the poem and reread it several times with a frown. 

"Tis a gem," he admitted, "but there wants some final touch, . , ? 

He scrutinized it line for line; at Bare the Love, dear Joan, 1 bear for 
Thee he paused, furrowed his great brow, pursed his lips, squinted his eye% 
tapped his foot, and scratched his chin with the feather of his quill. 

"Hm," he said. 

After some thought, he inked his quill $nd struck out Joan, setting in its 
place the word Heart. Then he reread the whole poem. 

" 'Twas the master touch!" he (declared with satisfaction. "The piece is 
perfect." 



8: A COLLOQUY BETWEEN MEN OF PRINCIPLE, AND 
WHAT CAME OF IT 



WHEN HE HAD DONE REVISING HIS POEM EBENEZER t*AID IT ON HIS 

night table, undressed, went to bed, and presently resumed the sleep that 
Joan Toast's visit had interrupted, for the day's events had quite fatigued 
him. But again his sleep was fitful this time it was excitement and not 
despair that bothered him and, as before, it was short-lived: he had been 
beneath his quilts no more than an hour before he was waked once again 
by a loud knocking at the door, which he'd forgot to latch after Joan's 
departure. 

"Who is't?" he called. "Bertrand! Someone's knocking!" 

Before he could make a light, or even get up from the bed* the door 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [73] 

was opened roughly, and John McEvoy, lantern in hand, strode into the 
room. He stood beside the bed and held the light close to Ebenezer's face. 
Bertrand, apparently, was asleep, for to Ebenezer's slight distress he failed 
to appear. 

"My five guineas, if ye please," McEvoy demanded calmly, holding out 
his other hand. 

Ebenezer broke at once into a mighty sweat, but he contrived to ask 
hoarsely, from the bed, "How is't I owe you money? I cannot recall buying 
aught of you." 

"Ye do but prove your ignorance of the world," declared McEvoy, "for 
the first principle o' harlotry is, that what a man buys of a whore is not so- 
much her bum but her will and her time; when ye hire my Joan 'tis neither 
her affair nor mine what use ye make o' her, so long as ye pay yer fee. As't 
happens, ye chose to talk in lieu of swiving; 'twas a fool's choice, but 'tis 
your privilege to play the fool if t please ye. Now, sir, my five guineas!" 

"Ah, my friend," said Ebenezer, reminding himself grimly of his identity, 
"'tis only fair to tell you, if haply Joan did not: I love her wondrously!" 

" 'Tis all one, so ye pay your fee," replied McEvoy. 

"That I cannot," Ebenezer said. "Your own reasoning in the matter 
rules it out. For if 'tis true,, as you declare, that 'tis the rental of her will 
and time that makes a woman whore, then to pay you for what of her 
time she spent here would make her my whore though I did not touch her 
carnally. And make her my whore I will not nay, not were I racked for't! 
I bear you no ill will, John McEvoy, nor must you think me miserly: I've 
gold enough, and no fear of parting with it." 

"Then pay your fee," said McEvoy. 

"My dear man," Ebenezer smiled, "will you not take five nay, six 
guineas from me as an outright gift?" 

"Five guineas, as a fee," repeated McEvoy. 

"Where's the difference to you, should I call the sum a gift and not a 
payment? 'Twill fetch no less in the market, I pledge you!" 

"If't makes no difference," replied McEvoy, "then call it the fee for Joan 
Toast's whoring." 

"Think not it makes no difference to me" Ebenezer said. "To me 'tis 
all the difference! No man makes a whore of the woman he loves, and I 
love Joan Toast as never man loved woman." 

"Out on't!" McEvoy scoffed. "Everything ye say proves ye know naught 
whatever concerning love. Think not ye love Joan Toast, Mr. Cooke: 'tis 
your love ye love, and that's but to say 'tis yourself and not my Joan. But no 



[ 74 I 1 SOT-WEED FACTOR 

matter love her or swive her, so ye pay your fee. To no man save myself 
may she be aught but whore; I am a jealous man, sir, and though ye may 
purchase my Joan's will and time as client, ye mayn't court it as lover." 

"'Sbody, 'tis a passing odd jealousy, I swear't!" Ebenezer exclaimed. 
"I ne'er have heard its like!" 

"Which is to say, ye know naught o' love," said McEvoy. 

Ebenezer shook his head and declared, "I cannot grasp it* Great heavens,, 
man, this divine creature, this vision of all that's fair in womankind, this 
Joan Toast she is your mistress! How is't you can allow men e'en to lay 
their eyes upon her, much less " 

"Much less much more? How clear it is ye love yourself and not Joan! 
There's naught o' the divine in Joan, my friend. She's mortal clay and 
hath her share o' failings like the rest of us. As for this vision ye speak of, 
'tis the vision ye love, not the woman. 'Twere impossible it could be other- 
wise, for none o' ye save I e'en knows the woman." 

"And yet you play her pimp!" 

McEvoy laughed. "I shall tell ye a thing about yourself, Eben Cooke, 
and haply ye'll recall it now and again: 'tis not simply love ye know naught 
of, 'tis the entire great red worldl Your senses fail ye; your busy fancy plays 
ye false and fills your head with foolish pictures. Things are not as ye see 
'em, friend the world's a tangled skein, and all is knottier than ye take it 
for. You understand naught o' life: I shan't say more." He drew a document 
from his pocket and gave it to Ebenezer. "Read it with haste and pay your 
fee. 

Ebenezer unfolded the paper and read it with mounting consternation. 
It was headed To Andrew Cooke, 2nd, Gent, and commenced thus: 

My dear Sir, 

It is my unhappy duty to bring to your notice certain regrettable matters con- 
cerning the behavior of your Son Ebenezer Cooke. . . . 

The note went on to declare that Ebenezer was spending his days and 
nights in the wine- and coffee-houses and the theaters, drinking, whoring, 
and writing doggerel, and that he was making no effort whatever to find an 
instructive post for himself as he had been directed. It concluded: 

I bring this lamentable state of affairs to your attention, not alone because 
it is your right as young Cooke's Father to know them, but also because 
the young man in question hath added to his other vices, that of luring young 
women into his bedchamber on promise of generous remuneration, only to 
default on payment afterwards. 

As agent for one such defrauded young lady, I find myself Mr. Cooke's creditor 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 75 ] 

in the amount of five guineas, which debt he refuses to honor despite the most 
reasonable pleas. I feel certain that, as the Gentleman's father, you will be 
interested in the settlement of this debt either directly, by forwarding me the 
young lady's fee, or indirectly, by persuading your son to settle it before the 
matter receives a more general notoriety. Waiting for communication from 
you upon the business, I am, sir, 

yr H mble & O w S vt , 
John McEvoy 

"'Sblood, 'tis my mini" Ebenezer murmured, when he had read it 
through. 

"Aye, if posted," agreed McEvoy. "Do but pay your fee, and 'tis yours 
to destroy. Else I mean to post it at once." 

Ebenezer closed his eyes and sighed. 

"Doth the thing so much matter to ye?" smiled McEvoy. 

"Aye. And doth it to you?" 

"Aye. It must be whore-money." 

Ebenezer caught sight of his poem in the lantern-light. His features 
commenced their customary dance,, and then, calming, he turned to face 
McEvoy. 

"It cannot be," he said. "That is my final word on't. Post thy tattling 
letter if you will." 

"I shall," declared McEvoy, and rose to leave. 

"And append this to't, if you've a mind to," Ebenezer added. Tearing 
off the signature Ebenezer Cooke, Gent., Poet & Laureate of England, he 
handed McEvoy the poem. 

"Such bravery," smiled his visitor, scanning it. "What is this? And 
Phaedra sweet Hippolytus her Step-Son? Ye rhyme Endymion and Step- 
Son?" 

Ebenezer paid his critic no heed. "Twill at least belie your charge that 
I write doggerel," he said. 

"Endymion and Step-Son" McEvoy repeated, mating a face. "Belie't, 
ye say? Marry,, sir, 'twill confirm it past question! Were I in your boots I'd 
pay my whore-money and consign letter, Endymion, Step-Son, and all to 
the fire." He returned the poem to Ebenezer. "Will ye not reconsider?" 

"Nay." 

"Ye'll go to Maryland for a whore?" 

"I'd not cross the street for a whore," Ebenezer said firmly, ^ut I shall 
cross the ocean for a principle! To you, haply, Joan Toast is a whore; to me 
she is a principle." 



[ y6 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"To me she is a woman," replied McEvoy. "To you she's a hallucination." 

"What manner of artist are you," scorned Ebenezer, "that cannot see 
the monstrous love which fires me?" 

"What manner of artist you," retorted McEvoy, "that can't see through 
it? And are ye in sooth a virgin, as Joan Toast swears?" 

"And a poet," Ebenezer declared with new serenity. "Now begone, an't 
please you. Do your worst!" 

McEvoy scratched his nose in amusement. "I will," he promised, and 
went out, leaving his host in total darkness. 

Ebenezer had remained in bed throughout the conversation, for at least 
three reasons: first, he had retired after Joan Toast's departure clothed in no 
warmer nightshirt than his own fair skin, and, not so much from prudishness 
as from shyness, he was reluctant to expose himself before another man, 
even his valet, though not always (as shall be seen) before a woman; second, 
even had this not been the case, McEvoy had given him little opportunity 
to get up; and third, it was Ebenezer's ill fortune to be endowed with a 
nervous system and a rational faculty that operated as independently of 
each other as two Londoners of wholly various temperament who chance 
to inhabit the same rooming house, but go blithely each his separate way 
without thought of his neighbor: no matter how firm his resolve, as regards 
both Joan Toast and his new-found essences, any strong emotion tended 
to soak him with sweat, to rob him of muscle if not voice, and to make 
him sick. Given both the determination and the opportunity, he still could 
scarcely have accomplished sitting up. 

His bedclothes were wet with perspiration; his stomach churned. When 
McEvoy was gone he sprang out of bed to latch the door against further 
visitors, but immediately upon standing erect was overcome by nausea and 
had to run for the commode across the room. As soon as he was able he 
slipped into his nightshirt and called for Bertrand, who this time appeared 
almost at once, wigless and gowned. In one hand he held a bare wax candle, 
in the other its heavy pewter holder, 

"The fellow is gone," Ebenezer said. " Tis safe to show thyself." Still 
weak in the knees, he sat at his writing-desk and held his head in his hands. 

"Lucky for hjlm he held his temperl" Bertrand said grimly, brandishing 
his candleholder. 

Ebenezer smiled. "Was't thy intent to rap on the wall for silence if he 
didn't?" 

"On his arrogant pate, sir! I stood just without your door the entire 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [77] 

while, for fear he'd leap you, and only jumped inside my room when he 
left, for fear he'd spy me." 

"For fear in sooth! Did you not hear my call?" 

"I own I did not, sir, and beg your pardon for't. Had he knocked below 
like any gentleman, he'd ne'er have got by me on that errand, I swear! Twas 
your voices waked me, and when I caught the drift of your talk I dared not 
intrude for fear of presuming, or leave for fear he'd assault you/' 

"Marry, Bertrand!" Ebenezer said. "Thou'rt the very model of a servant! 
You heard all, then?" 

" Twas farthest from my mind to eavesdrop," Bertrand protested, '"but 
I could scarce avoid the substance oft. What a cheat and blackguard the 
pimp is, to ask five guinea for a tart you spent not two hours with! For five 
guinea I could fill thy bed with trollops!" 

"Nay, 'tis no cheat; McEvoy is as honest a man as I. Twas a collision of 
principles, not a haggle over price." He went to fetch a robe. "Will you 
make up the fire, Bertrand, and brew tea for both of us? I've small hope of 
sleep this night," 

Bertrand lit the lamp from his candle, put fresh wood in the fireplace, 
and blew up the embers in the grate. 

"How can the wretch harm you?" he asked. " Tis unlikely a pimp could 
press a law-suit!" 

"He hath no need of the courts. Tis but a matter of telling my father of 
the affair, and off I go to Maryland." 

"For a simple business with a strumpet, sir? Marry, thou'rt not a child, 
nor Master Andrew any cleric! I beg your pardon for't, sir, but your home- 
place is no popish convent, if I may say so! There's much goes on there 
that Miss Anna and yourself know naught of, nor old Twigg, either, for all 
her sniffs and snoops." 

Ebenezer frowned. "How's that? What in Heav'n do you mean, fellow?" 
* "Nay, nay, spare your anger; marry, I yield to none in respect for your 
father, sir! I meant naught by't at all, save that Master Andrew is a natural 
man, if you follow me, like thee and me; a lusty fellow despite his age, and 
no disrespect intended he's long a widower. A servant sees things now 
and again, sir." 

"A servant sees little and fancies much," Ebenezer said sharply. "Is't 
your suggestion my father's a whoremonger?" 

" 'Sblood, sir, nothing of the sort! He's a great man and an honest, is 
Master Andrew, and I pride myself on having his confidence these many 
years. Tis no accident he chose me to come to London with you, sir: I've 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 



managed business of some consequence for him ere now that Mrs. Twigg 
for all her haughty airs knew naught of/' 

"See here, Bertrand," Ebenezer demanded with interest, "are you saying 
you've been my father's pimp?" 

"I'll speak no more oft, sir, an it please thee, for it seems thou'rt out of 
sorts and put an ill construction on my words. All I meant to say in the 
world was that were I in thy place I'd not pay a farthing for all the 
scoundrel's letters to your father. The man who says he ne'er hath bought 
a swiving must needs be either fairy or castrato, if he be not a liar, and 
Master Andrew's none o' the three. Let the rascal say 'tis a vice with thee; 
I'll swear on oath 'twas the first you've been a-whoring, to my knowledge. 
No disgrace in that/' He gave Ebenezer a cup of tea and stood by the fire 
to drink his own. 

"Perhaps not, even if 'twere true." 

"I'm certain oft," Bertrand said, gaining confidence. "You had your tart 
as any man might, and there's an end on't Her pimp asked more than her 
worth, and so you sent him packing. I'd advise thee to pay him not a 
farthing for all his trumpeting, and Master Andrew would agree with me." 

"Belike you misheard me through the door, Bertrand/' Ebenezer said. 
"I did not swive the girl." 

Bertrand smiled. "Ah, now, 'twas a clever enough stand to take with the 
pimp, considering he roused you up ere you'd time to think; but 'twill ne'er 
fool Master Andrew for a minute/' 

"Nay, 'tis the simple truth! And e'en had I done so I would not pay him 
a ha'penny for't. I love the girl and shan't buy her for a harlot/' 

<0 " N W ' that one hath the touch of greatness in it/' Bertrand declared 
"Tis worthy of the cleverest blade in London! But speaking as your 
adviser - " 

"My adviser! Thou'rt my adviser?" 

Bertrand shifted uneasily. "Aye, sir, in a manner of speaking, you under- 
stand. As I said before, I pride myself that your father trusts me _ " 

"Did Father send you to me as a governess? Do you report my doings 
to him?" 

t "Nay, nay!" Bertrand said soothingly. "I only meant, as I said before, 
tas clearly no accident he named me and no other to attend ye, sir. I pride 
myself 'tis a sign of his faith in my judgment. I merely meant 'twas clever 
to tell the punp thou'rt in love with his tart and shan't cheapen her; but 
it ye repeat the tale to Master Andrew 'twere wise to make clear 'twas but 
a gambit, so as not to alarm him." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR t 79 1 

"You don't believe it? Nor that I am a virgin?" 

"Thou'rt a great tease, sir! I only question whether thy father would 
understand raillery." 

"I see thou'rt not to be convinced," Ebenezer said, shaking his head. 
"No matter, I suppose. Tis not the business of five guineas will undo me 
anyhow, but the other." 

"Another? Marry, what a rascal!" 

"Nay, not another wench; another business. Haply 'twill interest you, as 
my adviser: McEvoy's tattling letter describes my place at Peter Paggen's, 
that hath not improved these five years." 

Bertrand set down his cup. "My dear sir, pay him his rascally guineas." 

Ebenezer smiled. "What? Permit the wretch to overcharge me?" 

"I've two guinea laid by, sir, in a button box in my chest. 'Tis thine 
toward the debt. Only let me run to pay him, ere he posts his foul letter." 

"Thy charity gladdens me,, Bertrand, and thy concern, but the principle 
is the same. I shan't pay it." 

"Marry, sir, then I must off to a Jew for the other three and pay it myself, 
though he hold liver and lights for collateral. Master Andrew will have my 
head!" 

" Twill avail thee naught. Tis not five guineas McEvoy wants, but five 
guineas from my hand as whore-money." 

"I'faith, then I'm lost!" 

"How so?" 

"When Master Andrew learns how ill ye've minded his direction he'll 
sack me for certain, to punish ye. What comfort hath the adviser? If things 
go well 'tis the student gets the praise; if ill, 'tis the adviser gets the blame/' 

"Tis in sooth a thankless office," Ebenezer said sympathetically. He 
yawned and stretched. "Let us sleep out the balance of the night, now. Thy 
conversation is a marvelous soporific." 

Bertrand showed no sign of understanding the remark, but he rose to 
leave. 

"You'll see me sacked, then, ere you pay the debt?" 

"I doubt me such a priceless adviser will be sacked," Ebenezer replied. 
"Belike he'll send thee off with me to Maryland, to advise me." 

"Gramercy, sir! Thou'rt jesting!" 

"Not at all." 

" 'Sheart! To perish at the hands of salvages!" 

"Ah, as for that, two of us can fight 'em better than one. Good night, 
now." So saying, he sent Bertrand terrified to his room and attempted, by 



[ 80 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

a childish habit he had of rolling from side to side in his bed, to lull himself 
to sleep. But his fancy was too much occupied with versions of the imminent 
confrontation of his father and himselfversions the details of which he 
altered and perfected with an artist's dispassionate care to allow him more 
than a restless somnolence. 

As it turned out, there was no confrontation at all, though St. Giles 
was but an easy carriage ride from where he lived. On the evening of the 
second day after McEvoy's threat, a messenger came to Ebenezer's room 
(from which, having abandoned Peter Paggen entirely, he had scarcely 
ventured in two days) with twelve pounds in cash and a brief letter from 
Andrew: 

My Son: It is truly said, that Children are a certain Care, and but an uncertain 
Comfort. Suffice it to say, I have learned of your vicious Condition; I shall not 
sully myself by witnessing it firsthand. You shall on Pain of total and entire 
Disinheritance and Disownment take Ship for Maryland on the Bark Poseidon, 
sailing from Plimouth for Piscataway on April i, there to proceed straightway 
to Cookes poynt and assume Managership of Maiden. It is my intention to 
make a final Sojourn in the Plantations perhaps a Year hence, and I pray that 
at that Time I shall find a prosperous Maiden and a regenerate Son: an Estate 
worth bequeathing and an Heir worth the Bequest. It is your final Chance. 

Your Father 

Ebenezer was more numbed than stunned by the letter, for he'd antic- 
ipated some such ultimatum. 

"Marry, 'tis but a week hence!' 7 he reflected with alarm. The notion 
of leaving his companions just when, having determined his essence, he 
felt prepared to begin enjoying them, distressed him quite; whatever fugitive 
attraction the colonies had held for him fled before the prospect of actually 
going there. 

He showed the letter to Bertrand. 

"Ah, 'tis as I thought: thy principles have undone me, I see no summons 
here to my old post in St. Giles," 

"Haply 'twill come yet, Bertrand, by another messenger/' 

But the servant appeared unconsoled, TfaithI Back to old Twigg! I had 
almost rather brave the salvage Indians." 

"I would not see thee suffer on my account," Ebenezer declared, "I 
shall pay your April's wages, and you may start today to seek another post" 

The valet seemed scarcely able to believe such generosity, "Bless ye, sir! 
Thou'rt every inch a gentlemanl" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 8l ] 

Ebenezer dismissed him and returned to his own problem. What was 
he to do? During most of that day he anxiously examined various faces of 
himself in his looking glass; during most of the next he composed stanzas 
to Gloom and Melancholy, after the manner of II Penseroso (though 
briefer and, he decided, of a different order of impact); the third he 
spent abed, getting up only to feed and relieve himself. He refused 
Bertrand's occasional proffered services. A change came over him: his beard 
went unshaved, his drawers unchanged, his feet unwashed. How take ship 
for the wild untutored colonies, now he knew himself a poet and was ready 
to fire London with his art? And yet how make shift unaided in London, 
penniless, in defiance of his father and at the expense of his inheritance? 

"What am I to do?" he asked himself, lying unkempt in his bed on the 
fourth day. It was a misty March morning, though a warm and sunny one, 
and the glaring haze from outside caused his head to ache. The bedclothes 
were no longer clean, nor was his nightshirt. His late fire was ashed and 
cold. Eight o'clock passed, and nine, but he could not resolve to get up. 
Once only, as a mere experiment, he held his breath in order to try 
whether he could make himself die, for he saw no alternative; but after 
a half minute he drew air frantically and did not try again. His stomach 
rumbled, and his sphincters signaled their discomfort. He could think of 
no reason for rising from the bed, nor any for remaining there. Ten o'clock 
came and went. 

Near noon, running his eyes about the room for the hundredth time 
that morning, he caught sight of something that had previously escaped 
him: a scrap of paper on the floor beside his writing-desk. Recognizing it, 
he climbed out of bed without thinking, fetched it up, and squinted at 
it in the glare, 

Ebenezer Cooke, Gent., "Poet & Laureate. . . ; 

The rest of the epithet was torn off, but despite its loss, or perhaps be- 
cause of it, Ebenezer was suddenly inspired with such a pleasant resolve 
that his spirits rose on the instant, driving three days' gloom before them 
as a March breeze drives away squalls. His spine thrilled; his face flushed. 
Lighting on a piece of letter paper, he addressed a salutation directly to 
Charles Calvert, Third Lord Baltimore and Second Lord Proprietary of 
the Province of Maryland. Your Excellency, he wrote, with the same sure 
hand of some nights before: 

It is my Intention to take Ship for Maryland upon the Bark Poseidon a few 
Days hence, for the Purpose of managing my Father's Property, called Cooke' s 
Point, in Dorchester. Y r L dsh P will do me a great Honour, and Himself no 



[ 82 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

ill Turn it may be, by granting me an Audience before I embark, in order that 
I might discuss certain Plans of mine, such that I venture will not altogether 
displease Y r L dsll P, and in order farther that I might learn, from Him most 
qualified to say, where in the Province to seek the congenial Company of 
Men of Breeding and Refinement, with whom to share my leisure Hours in 
those most civiliz'd Pursuits of Poetry, Music and Conversation, without which 
Life were a Salvag'ry, and scarce endurable. Respectfully therefore awaiting 
Y r L dsh P Reply, I am, 

Y r Most H mWe & O bt S vt , 
Ebenezer Cooke 

And after but a moment's deliberation he appended boldly to his name 
the single word Poet, deeming it a pointless modesty to deny or conceal 
his very essence. 

"By Heav'n!" he exclaimed to himself, looking back on his recent 
doldrums. "I had near slipped once again into the Abyss! Methinks 'tis a 
peril I am prone to: 'tis my Nemesis, and marks me off from other men 
as did the Furies poor Orestes! So be't: at least I know my dread Erinyes 
for what they are and will henceforth mark their approach betimes. What 
is more thank Joan Toast! I now know how to shield myself from their 
assault/' He consulted his mirror and after some false starts, reflected this 
reflection: "Life! I must fling myself into Life, escape to't, as Orestes to 
the temple of Apollo. Action be my sanctuary; Initiative my shield! I shall 
smite ere I am smitten; clutch Life by his horns! Patron of poets, thy 
temple be the Entire Great Real World, whereto I run with arms a-stretch: 
may't guard me from the Pit, and may my Erinyes sink 'neath the vertigo 
I flee to be transformed to mild Eumenides!" 

He then reread his letter. 

"Aye," he said, "read and rejoice, Baltimore! Tis not every day your 
province is blessed with a poet. But faith! Tis already the twenty-seventh 
of the month! I must deliver't in person at once." 

Tius resolved, Ebenezer called for Bertrand and, finding him not at 
home, doffed his malodorous nightshirt and proceeded to dress himself. 
Not bothering to trouble his skin with water, he slipped on his best linen 
drawers, short ones without stirrups, heavily perfumed, and a clean white 
day-shirt of good frieze holland, voluminous and soft, with a narrow neck- 
band, full sleeves caught at the wrists with black satin ribbon, and small, 
modestly frilled cuifs. Next he pulled on a pair of untrimmed black velvet 
knee breeches, close in the thighs and full in the seat, and then his knitted 
white silk hose, which, following the very latest fashion, he left rolled above 
the knee in order to display the black ribbon garters that held them up. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 83 ] 

On then with his shoes, a fortnight old, of softest black Spanish leather, 
square-toed, high-heeled, and buckled, their cupid-bow tongues turned 
down to flash a fetching red lining. Respectful of both the warmth and 
the fashion of the day, he left his waistcoat where it hung and donned 
next a coat of plum-colored serge lined with silver-gray prunella the great 
cuffs turned back to show alternate stripes of plum and silver collarless, 
tight-shouldered, and full-skirted, which he left unbuttoned from neck to 
hem to show off shirt and cravat. This latter was of white muslin, the long 
pendant ends finished in lace, and Ebenezer tied it loosely, twisted the 
pendants ropewise, and fetched up the ends to pass through the top left 
buttonhole of his open coat, Steinkirk fashion. Then came his short-sword 
in its beribboned scabbard, slung low on his left leg from a well-tooled belt, 
and after it his long, tight-curled white periwig, which he powdered gener- 
ously and fitted with care on his pate, in its natural state hairless as an egg. 
Nothing now remained but to top the periwig with his round-crowned, 
broad-brimmed, feather-edged black beaver, draw on his gauntlet gloves of 
fawn leather stitched in gold and silver (the cuffs edged in white lace 
and lined with yellow silk), fetch up his long cane (looped with plum- 
and-white ribbons like those on his scabbard), and behold the finished 
product in his looking glass. 

" 'Sbodikins!" he cried for very joy. "What a rascal! En garde, London! 
Look lively, Life! Have at ye!" 

But there was little time to admire the spectacle: Ebenezer hurried out 
to the street, hired himself the services of barber and bootblack, ate a hearty 
meal, and took hack at once for the London house of Charles Calvert, 
Lord Baltimore. 



9: EBENEZER'S AUDIENCE WITH LORD BALTIMORE, 
AND HIS INGENIOUS PROPOSAL TO THAT GENTLEMAN 



TO HIS EXTREME DELIGHT AND CONSIDERABLE SURPRISE, IN A MATTER 

of minutes after Ebenezer had presented himself at Lord Baltimore's town 
house and had sent his message in by a house-servant, word was sent back 
to him that Charles would receive the visitor in his library, and Ebenezer 
was ushered not long afterwards into the great man's presence. 
Lord Baltimore was seated in an enormous leather chair beside the hearth, 



[ 84 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

and, though he did not rise to greet his visitor, he motioned cordially for 
Ebenezer to take the chair opposite him. He was an old man, rather small- 
framed and tight-skinned despite his age, with a prominent nose, a thin 
white mustache, and large, unusually bright brown eyes; he looked, it oc- 
curred to Ebenezer, like an aged and ennobled Henry Burlingame. He 
was dressed more formally and expensively than Ebenezer, but as the latter 
observed at once not so fashionably: in fact, some ten years behind the 
times. His wig was a campaigner, full but not extremely long, its tight curls 
terminating before either shoulder in pendulous corkscrewed dildos; his 
cravat was of loosely-tied, lace-edged linen; his coat was rose brocade lined 
with white alamode, looser in the waist and shorter in the skirt than was 
the current preference, and the unflapped pockets were cut horizontally 
rather than vertically and set low to the hem. The sleeves reached nearly 
to the wrists, returned a few inches to show their white linings stitched in 
silver, and opened at the back with rounded hound's-ear corners. The 
side vents, cut hip high, were edged with silver buttons and sham button- 
holes, and the right shoulder boasted a knot of looped silver ribbons. Be- 
neath the coat were a waistcoat of indigo armozine, which he wore com- 
pletely buttoned, and silk breeches to match: one saw no more of his 
shirt than the dainty cuffs of white cobweb lawn. What is more, his garters 
were hidden under the roll of his hose, and the tongues of his shoes were 
high and square. He held Ebenezer's letter in his hand and squinted at 
it in the dim light from the heavily-curtained windows as though re-exam- 
ining its contents. 

"Ebenezer Cooke, is't?" he said by way of commencing the conversa- 
tion. "Of Cooke's Point, in Dorchester?" His voice, while still in essence 
forceful, had that uncertain flutter which betrays the onset of senility. 
Ebenezer bowed slightly in acknowledgment and took the chair indicated 
by his host. 

"Andrew Cooke's son?" asked Charles, peering at his guest. 

"The same, sir," Ebenezer replied, 

"I knew Andrew Cooke in Maryland," reflected Charles. "If memory 
serves me rightly, 'twas in 1661, the year my father made me Governor of 
the Province, that I licensed Andrew Cooke to trade there. But I've not 
seen him for many years and haply wouldn't know him now, or he me." 
He sighed. "Life's a battle that scars us all, victor and vanquished alike." 

"Aye," Ebenezer agreed readily, "but 'tis the stuff of living to fight it, 
and take't by storm, and your good soldier wears his scars with pride, win 
or lose, so he got 'em bravely in honest combat." 

"I doubt not," murmured Charles, and retreated to the letter. "How's 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 85 ] 

this, now/' he remarked: "Ebenezer Cooke, Poet. What might that mean, 
pray? Can it be you earn your bread by versifying? Or you're a kind of 
minstrel, belike, that wanders about the countryside a-begging and recit- 
ing? Tis a trade I know little of, I confess't" 

"Poet I am," answered Ebenezer with a blush, "and no mean one it 
may be; but not a penny have I earned by't, nor will I ever. The muse 
loves him who courts her for herself alone, and scorns the man who'd pimp 
her for his purse's sake." 

"I daresay, I daresay," said Charles. "But is-t not customary, when a man 
tack some bunting to his name to wave like a pendant in the public breeze, 
that he show thereby his calling and advertise it to the world? Now, did 
I read here Ebenezer Cooke, Tinker, I'd likely hire you to patch my pots; 
if Ebenezer Cooke, Physician, I'd send you the rounds of my household, 
to purge and tonic the lot; if Ebenezer Cooke, Gentleman, br Esquire, I'd 
presume you not for hire,, and ring in my man to fetch you brandy. But 
Poet, now: Ebenezer Cooke, Poet. What trade is that? How doth one deal 
with you? What work doth one put you to?" 

" Tis that very matter I wish to speak of," said Ebenezer, unruffled by 
the twitting. "Know, sir, that though 'tis no man's living to woo the muse, 
'tis yet some men's calling, and so 'twas not recklessly I tacked on my name 
the title Poet: 'tis of no moment what I do; poet is what I am." 

"As another might sign himself Gentleman?" asked Charles. 

"Precisely." 

"Then 'tis not for hire you sought me out? You crave no employment?* 

"Hire I do not seek," Ebenezer declared. "For as the lover craves of his 
beloved naught save her favor, which to him is reward sufficient, so craves 
the poet no more from his muse than happy inspiration; and as the fruit 
of lover's labor is a bedded bride, and the sign oft a crimsoned sheet, so 
the poet's prize is a well-turned verse, and the sign thereof a printed page. 
To be sure, if haply the lass bring with her some dowry, 'twill not be scorned, 
nor will what pence come poetwards from, his publishing. Howbeit, these 
are mere accidents, happy but unsought." 

"Why, then," said Charles, fetching two pipes from a rack over the fire- 
place, "I believe we may call't established that you are not for hire. Let's 
have a pipe on't, and then pray state your business." 

The two men filled and lit their pipes, and Ebenezer returned to his 
theme. 

"Hire I care naught for," he repeated, "but as for employment, there's 
another matter quite, and the very sum and substance of my visit. You 
enquired a moment past, What trade is the poet's, and to what work 



[86] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

shall he be put? For answer let me ask you, sir, by'r leave would the world 
at large know aught of Agamemnon, or fierce Achilles, or crafty Odysseus, 
or the cuckold Menelaus, or that entire circus of strutting Greeks and 
Trojans, had not great Homer rendered 'em to verse? How many battles 
of greater import are lost in the dust of history, d'you think, for want of 
a poet to sing 'em to the ages? Full many a Helen blooms one spring and 
goes to the worm forgot; but let a Homer paint her in the grand cosmetic 
of his verse, and her beauty boils the blood of twenty centuries! Where lies 
a Prince's greatness, I ask you? In his feats on the field of battle, or the 
downy field of love? Why, 'tis but a generation's work to forget 'em for 
good and all! Nay, I say 'tis not in the deeds his greatness lies, but in 
their telling. And who's to tell 'em? Not the historian, for be he ne'er so 
dev'lish accurate, as to how many hoplites had Epaminondas when he 
whipped the Spartans at Leuctra, or what was the Christian name of 
Charlemagne's barber, yet nobody reads him but his fellow chroniclers and 
his students the one from envy, t'other from necessity. But place deeds 
and doer in the poet's hands, and what comes oft? Lo, the crook'd nose 
grows straight, the lean shank fleshes out, French pox becomes a bedsore; 
shady deeds shed their tarnish, bright grow brighter; and the whole is 
musicked into tuneful rhyme, arresting conceit, and stirring meter, so's to 
stick in the head like Greensleeves and move the heart like Scripture!" 

"Tis clear as day," said Charles with a smile, "that the poet is a useful 
member of a Prince's train." 

"And what's true for a prince is true for a principality," Ebenezer went 
on, stirred by his own eloquence. "What were Greece without Homer, 
Rome without Virgil, to sing their glories? Heroes die, statues break, em- 
pires crumble; but your Iliad laughs at time, and a verse from Virgil still 
rings true as the day 'twas struck. Who renders virtue palatable like the poet, 
and vice abhorrent, seeing he alone provides both precept and example? 
Who else bends nature to suit his fancy and paints men better or worse 
to suit his purpose? What sings like lyric, praises like panegyric, mourns 
like elegiac, wounds like Hudibrastic verse?" 

"Naught, that I can name," said Charles, "and you have quite persuaded 
me that a man's most useful friend and fearsome foe is the poet. Prithee 
now, fellow, dispense with farther preamble and deliver me your business 
plainly/' 

"Very well," said Ebenezer, planting his cane between his knees and 
gripping its handle firmly. "Would you say, sir, that Maryland boasts a sur- 
feit of poets?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 87 ] 

"A surfeit of poets?" repeated Charles, and drew thoughtfully upon his 
pipe. "Well, now, since you ask, I think not. Nay, in good faith I must 
confess, entre nous, there is no surfeit of poets in Maryland. Not a bit oft. 
Why, Fd wager one might walk the length and breadth of St. Mary's City 
on a May afternoon and not cross the tracks of a single poet, they're that 
rare." 

"As I reckoned/' said Ebenezer. "Would you go so far as to suppose, 
even, that I might be hard put to't, once I establish myself in Maryland, 
to find me four or five fellow-planters to match a couplet with, or trade 
a rhyme?" 

" Tis not impossible," admitted Charles. 

"I guessed as much. And now, sir, if I might: would't be mere gross 
presumption and vanity for me to suppose, that haply I shall be the ab- 
solute first, premier, unprecedented, and genuine original poet to set foot 
on the soil of Terra Marine? First to pay court to the Maryland Muse?" 

" 'Tis not in me to deny," replied Charles, "that should there breathe 
such a wench as this Maryland Muse, you may well have her maidenhead." 

"Faith!" cried Ebenezer joyously. "Only think on't! A province, an en- 
tire people all unsung! What deeds forgot, what gallant men and women 
lost to time! 'Sblood, it dizzies me! Trees felled, towns raised, a very nation 
planted in the wilds! Foundings, strugglings, triumphs! Why, 'tis work for 
a Virgil! Think, m'lord, only think on't: the noble house of Calvert, the 
Barons Baltimore builders of nations, bringers of light, fructifiers of the 
wilderness! A glorious house and history still unmusicked for the world's 
delight! Marry, 'tis virgin territory!" 

"Many's the fine thing to be said of Maryland," Charles agreed. "But 
to speak plainly, I fear me that virgins are rare as poets there." 

"Prithee do not jest!" begged Ebenezer. " 'Twere an epic such as ne'er 
was penned! The Marylandiad, b'm'faith!" 

"How's that?" For all his teasing manner, Charles had grown thoughtful 
in the course of Ebenezer's outburst. 

"The Marylandtad!" repeated Ebenezer, and declaimed as from a title- 
page: "An epic to out-epic epics: the history of the princely house of Charles 
Calvert, Lord Baltimore and Lord Proprietary of the Province of Maryland, 
relating the heroic founding of that province! The courage and persever- 
ance of her settlers in battling barb'rous nature and fearsome salvage to 
wrest a territory from the wild and transform it to an earthly paradise! The 
majesty and enlightenment of her proprietors, who like kingly gardeners 
fostered the tender seeds of civilization in their rude soil, and so hus- 



[ 88 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

banded and cultivated them as to bring to fruit a Maryland beauteous be- 
yond description; verdant, fertile, prosperous, and cultured; peopled with 
brave, men and virtuous women, healthy, handsome, and refined: a Mary- 
land, in short, splendid in her past, majestic in her present, and glorious 
in her future^ the brightest jewel in the fair crown of England, owned and 
ruled to the benefit of both by a family second to none in the recorded 
history of the universal world the whole done into heroic couplets, printed 
on linen, bound in calf, stamped in gold" here Ebenezer bowed with a 
flourish of his beaver "and dedicated to Your Lordship!" 

"And signed?" asked Charles. 

Ebenezer rose to his feet and beamed upon his host, one hand on his 
cane and the other on his hip. 

"Signed Ebenezer Cooke, Gentleman," he replied: "Poet and Laureate 
of the Province of Maryland!" 

"Ah," said Charles. "Poet and Laureate, now: 'tis a new bit of bunting 
you'd add to your name." 

"Only think how 'twould redound to Your Lordship's credit," urged 
Ebenezer. "The appointment would prove at a single stroke both the 
authority and the grace of your rule, for 'twould give the Province the 
flavor of a realm and the refinement of a court to have a bona fide laureate 
sing her praises and record in verse her great moments; and as for the 
Marylandiad itself, 'twould immortalize the Barons Baltimore, and make 
Aeneases of 'em all! Moreover, 'twould paint the Province as she stands 
today in such glowing colors as to lure the finest families of England to 
settle there; 'twould spur the inhabitants to industry and virtue, to keep 
the picture true as I paint it; in sum, 'twould work to the enhancement 
of both the quality and the value of the colony, and so proportionately 
ennoble, empower, and enrich him who owns and rules her! Is't not a 
formidable string of achievements?" 

At this Charles burst into such a fit of laughing that he choked on his 
pipe smoke, watered at the eyes, and came near to losing his campaigner; 
it required the spirited back-thumping of two body servants, who stood 
nearby, to restore his composure. 

"Oh dear!" he cried at last, daubing at his eyes with a handkerchief. "An 
achievement indeed, to ennoble and enrich him who rules Maryland! I'm 
sorry to say, Master Poet, that that fellow already maintains himself a 
laureate to sing him! There's no ennobling him beyond his present station, 
and as for enriching him, I venture I've done my share of that and more! 
Oh dear! Oh dear!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 89 ] 

"How is that?" asked Ebenezer, all bewildered. 

''My good man, is't that you were born yesterday? Know you naught of 
the true state o' the world?" 

"Surely 'tis thy province!" exclaimed Ebenezer. 

"Surely 'twas my province," corrected Charles with a wry smile, "and 
the Barons Baltimore were her True and Absolute Lords Proprietary, more 
often than not, from the day she was chartered till just three years ago. I 
get my quit-rents yet, and a miserable bit of port revenue, but for the rest, 
'tis King William's province these days, sir, and Queen Mary's, not mine. 
Why not take your proposal to the Crown?" 

"Marry, I knew naught oft!" said Ebenezer. "Might I ask for what cause 
your Lordship retired from rule? Was't haply your desire to spend quietly 
the evening of life? Or belike 'twas sheer devotion to the Crown? Egad, 
what spaciousness of character!" 

"Stay, stay," cried Charles, shaking again with mirth, "else I must summon 
my man again to pound the lights out of me! Hey! Ha!" He sighed deeply 
and beat his chest with the flat of his hand. When he had regained control 
of himself he said, "I see you are all innocent of Maryland's history, and 
will plunge into a place not knowing the whys and wherefores oft, or who 
stands for what. You came to do me a favor, so you declare, and by 
Heav'n! enrich and ennoble me: very well, then, permit me to do you 
one in return, which will add not a farthing to your estate, but may some- 
day haply save you another such wasted hour: by your leave, Mister Cooke, 
I shall sketch you shortly the history of this Maryland, which,, like the gift 
of a salvage, was first bestowed and then snatched back. Will you hear it?" 

" 'Tis my pleasure and honor," answered Ebenezer, who, however, was 
too crestfallen, after Charles's reaction to his proposal, to relish greatly a 
lesson in history. 



10: A BRIEF RELATION OF THE MARYLAND 
PALATINATE, ITS ORIGINS AND STRUGGLES FOR 
SURVIVAL, AS TOLD TO EBENEZER BY HIS HOST 



" 'TIS TRULY SAID," CHARLES BEGAN, "UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS 

the crown, inasmuch as Envy and covetoiLsne$s are ne'er satisfied. Mary- 
land's mine by law and by right, yet her history is the tale of my family's 



[90] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

struggle to preserve her, and of the plots of countless knaves to take her 
from us chief among them Black Bill Claiborne and a very antichrist 
named John Coode, who plagues me yet. 

"My grandfather, George Calvert, as you may know, was introduced to 
the court of James I as private secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, and after 
that great man's death was appointed-clerk to the Privy Council and twice 
Commissioner to Ireland. He was knighted in 1617, and when Sir Thomas 
Lake was sacked as Secretary of State (owing to the free tongue of his 
wife), my grandfather was named to replace him, despite the fact that 
the Duke of Buckingham, James's favorite, wanted the post for his friend 
Carleton, the Ambassador to the Netherlands. I have cause to believe that 
Buckingham took this as an affront the more because James sent him 
personally to notify Grandfather of his preferment and became the first 
significant enemy to our house. 

"What an ill time to be Secretary of State! Twas in 1619, remember: 
the Thirty Years' War had just commenced and was spreading all over 
the continent; James had emptied our treasury; we hadn't a single strong 
ally! 'Twas a choice 'twixt Spain and France, and to choose one was to 
alienate the other. Buckingham favored Spain, and my grandfather sup- 
ported him. What could seem wiser, I ask you? Marrying Prince Charles to 
the Infanta Maria would bind Spain to us forever; Maria's dowry would 
fill the treasury; and by supporting the King and Buckingham my grand- 
father would prove his loyalty to the one and shame the resentment of 
the other! I firmly believe, sir, that were I in his place I should have chosen 
the same course. The match was unpopular, to be sure, among the Prot- 
estants, and Grandfather was given the odious chore (I think at Bucking- 
ham's urging) of defending it to a hostile Parliament you can be sure 
his enemies multiplied! But 'twas the part of wisdom: no man could have 
guessed the treachery of King Philip and his ambassador Gondomar, who 
lured us to alienate France, alienate the German Protestant princea, alien- 
ate even James's son-in-law Frederick and our own House of Commons, 
only to break off negotiations at the last minute and leave us virtually 
helpless!" 

"He was an infamous wretch, that Gondomar," Ebenezer agreed po- 
litely. 

"That, of course, together with his conversion to the Church of Rome, 
which he announced shortly after, ended Grandfather's public career, for 
he was not a man to alter course before every fickle wind of expedience, 
as did Buckingham and the court, but followed honorably the dictates of 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Conscience and Reason. Despite the King's entreaties he retired from office, 
and as reward for his loyalty James named him Baron of Baltimore in the 
Kingdom of Ireland. 

"From then till his death he devoted himself to colonizing America. In 
1622 James had patented him the southeastern peninsula of Newfound- 
land, and my grandfather, deceived by lying reports of the place, put a 
good part of his fortune into a settlement called Avalon and went to live 
there himself. But the climate was intolerable, for one thing, and det- 
rimental both to crops and health. What's more, the French with whom, 
thanks to Buckingham's statesmanship, we were at war were forever 
snatching our vessels and molesting our fishermen; and as if this were not 
trouble enough, certain rascally Puritan ministers spread word in the Privy 
Council that Popish priests were being smuggled into Avalon to undermine 
the Church of England there. At length my grandfather begged King 
Charles for a grant farther south, in the dominion of Virginia. The King 
wrote in reply that Grandfather should abandon his plans and return to 
England, but ere the letter was received Grandfather had already removed 
to Jamestown with his family and forty colonists. There he was met by 
Governor Pott and his Council (including the blackguard William Clai- 
borne, archenemy of Maryland, who for very spleen and treachery hath 
no equal in the history of the New World), all of 'em hostile as salvages 
and bent on driving Grandfather away, for fear Charles would grant him 
the whole of Virginia out from under 'em. As if he were some upstart 
and not late Privy Councillor to the King, they pressed him to swear the 
oath of supremacy, knowing full well that as a good Catholic he would 
perforce refuse. Not e'en the King had required it of him, and 'twas in 
the authority of neither Pott nor Claiborne nor any other rascal in Virginia 
to administer it, but demand it they did, nonetheless, and were like to set 
bullies and ruffians upon him when he would not swear't." 

"Inequity!" said Ebenezer. 

"Iniquity!" amended Charles. "So hardly did they use him, that he was 
forced to leave wife and family in Jamestown, and after exploring the 
coast for awhile he returned to England and asked Charles for the Carolina 
territory, south of the James River to Chowan and westward to the moun- 
tains. The charter was drawn, but ere 'twas granted who should appear in 
England but good Master Claiborne, who straightway commences to scheme 
and intrigue against it. To avoid dispute, Grandfather nobly relinquished 
Carolina and applied instead for land north of Virginia, on both sides of 
the Bay of Chesapeake. Charles tried in vain to persuade him to live at 



[92] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

ease in England and labor no more with grants and colonies, for that Grand- 
father was by this time broken in health from the rigors of Avalon, dis- 
pirited by his contests with intriguers and bigots, and well-nigh impoverished 
by his failures. 'Twas e'en implied that his favor with the crown would 
be increased to make up for his losses. But Grandfather would have none 
of such idleness and at last prevailed upon the King to make the grant, 
which he would name Crescentia, but which the King called Terra Mariae, 
or Mary-Land, after Henrietta Maria, the Queen." 
"Nobly done." 

"A charter was writ up then, the like of which for authority and amplitude 
had ne'er been composed by the Crown of England. It granted to my 
grandfather all the land from the Potomac River on the south to Latitude 
Forty on the north, and from the Atlantic west to the meridian of the 
Potomac's first fountain. To distinguish her above all other regions in the 
territory, Maryland was named a Province, a county palatine, and over it 
we Barons Baltimore were made and decreed the true and absolute Lords 
and Proprietaries. We had the advowsons of churches; we had authority 
to enact laws and create courts-baron and courts-leet to enforce 'em; we 
could punish miscreants e'en to the taking of life or member; we could 

confer dignities and titles " 

"Ah," said Ebenezer, listening in awe. 

"we could fit out armies, make war, levy taxes, patent land, trade 

abroad, establish towns and ports of entry " 

"Mercy!" 

"In short," Charles declared, "for the tribute of two Indian arrows per 
annum, Maryland was ours in free and common socage, to manage as we 
pleased; and what's more 'twas laid down in the charter that peradventure 
any word, clause, or sentence in't were disputed, it must be read so's most 
to benefit us, and there's an end on'tl" 
"Ffaith, it dizzies me!" 

"Aye, 'twas' a mighty charter, and fit reward to George Calvert for a 
life of loyal and thankless service. But ere it passed the Great Seal, Grand- 
father died, wdrn out at a mere fifty-two years of age, and the charter 
passed to his son Cecil, my own dear father, who thus in 1632, when he 
was but twenty-six, became Second Lord Baltimore and First Lord Pro- 
prietary of the Province of Maryland. Straightway he set to fitting out ves- 
sels and rounding up colonists, to what a hue and a cry from Black Bill 
Claiborne! To what a gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair amongst the 
members of the old Virginia Company, whose charter had long since been 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 93 ] 

revoked! They would noise it in Cheapside that Father's great powers de- 
prived the people of their liberty, and bruit it in Bankside that the Mary- 
landers were given such a surfeit of liberty as to discontent the settlers in 
Virginia! They would vow in Limehouse that the Ark and the Dove were 
fitting out to carry nuns to Spain, and swear in Kensington 'twas to ferry 
Spanish soldiers that Father rigged 'em. So numerous and crafty were his 
enemies, that Father must needs stay behind in London to preserve his 
rights and trust the voyage to my uncles Leonard and George, who set 
out from Gravesend for Maryland on October 18, 1633. But no sooner 
doth the Ark weigh anchor than one of Claiborne's spies, hoping to 
scuttle us, runs to the Star Chamber and reports we're not cleared through 
customs, and our crew hath not sworn the oath of allegiance. Secretary 
Coke sends couriers to Admiral Pennington, in the Straits off Sandwich, 
to halt us, and back we're sent to London." 

"Foul connivance!" 

"After a month of haranguing, Father cleared away the charges as false 
and malicious, and off we went again. So's not to give Claiborne farther 
ammunition, we loaded our Protestants at Gravesend* swpre 'em their oath 
off Tilbury, and then sailed down the Channel to the Isle of Wight to load 
our Catholics and a brace of Jesuit priests." 

"Very clever," Ebenezer said a little uncertainly. 

"Then, by Heav'n, off we sail for Maryland at last, with instructions from 
Father not to hold our masses in the public view, not to dispute religion 
with the Protestants, not to anchor under the Virginians' guns at Port Com- 
fort but to lie instead over by Accomac on the Eastern Shore, and not to 
have aught to do with Captain Claibome and his people for the first year. 

"With the salvages, a nation of Piscataways, we had no quarrel, for they 
were happy enough to enlist our defense against their enemies the Seneques 
and Susquehannoughs: 'twas the fiend Claiborne, more evil than a score 
of salvages, who caused our trouble! This Claiborne was a factor for Clo- 
berry and Company, a Councillor of Virginia after her charter was re- 
voked, and Secretary of State for the Dominion by appointment of Charles 
I, who was easily misled. He ran a fur trade with the Susquehanaoughs 
along the Chesapeake, and for that reason had early looked on my grand- 
father as a threat to his fortunes. His main interest was Kent Island, halfway 
up the Chesapeake, where his trading-post was situated: he'd rather have 
surrendered an arm than Kent Island, though 'twas clearly within our grant." 

'What did he do?" asked Ebenezer. 

"What doth Mr. Claiborne do? Why, says he to himself, Doth not 



[94] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Baltimore's charter grant him the land hactemis inculta Tiitherto unculti- 
vated?' And didn't he give up claim to Accomac when 'twas shown the 
Virginians had already settled there? Then he must give up Kent Island 
too, for my traders beat him to't! Thus he pled to the Lords Commissioners 
for Plantations. But mark you, this accursed hactenus inculta was meant 
as mere description of the land; 'tis the common language of charters, and 
not intended as a condition of the grant. And truth to tell, Claibome's 
traders had not tilled the Island at that: they bartered their ware for corn 
to live on as well as furs for Cloberry and Company. The Lords Commis- 
sioners disallowed his claim, but give up Kent Island he would not. The 
Marylanders land in March of 1634 fifty-nine years ago this month- 
settle at St. Mary's, and inform Claiborne that Kent Island is theirs; he 
will neither swear allegiance to the Proprietary nor take title to Kent 
from him,, but asks the Virginia Council what to do. You may depend on't 
he doth not tell 'em of the Lords Commissioners' ruling, and news travels 
slow from the Privy Council to America; and so they tell him to hold fast, 
and that he doth, inflaming all whose ears he can catch against my father. 

"Uncle Leonard, in St. Mary's, lets Claibome's year of grace expire and 
then commands him to acknowledge Father's rights or suffer imprisonment 
and confiscation of the Island. King Charles orders Governor Harvey of 
Virginia to protect us from the Indians and allow free trade 'twixt the 
colonies, and at the same time, being misled by Claibome's agents to 
believe Kent Island outside our patent, he orders Father not to molest 
Claiborne! Now Harvey was a right enough Christian man, rest his soul, 
willing to live and let live; therefore, our Claiborne, who had no use for 
such peaceableness, had long led a faction aimed at unseating the poor 
man and driving him from the colony. Thus when Harvey in obeying the 
King's order declares his readiness to trade with Maryland, the Virginians 
rise up in a rage against him and declare they'd sooner knock their cattle 
on the head than sell 'em to us. 

"Then 'twas open warfare. Uncle Leonard seizes one of Claibome's 
pinnaces in the Patuxent River and arrests her master Thomas Smith for 
trading without a license from Father. Claiborne arms a shallop and com- 
missions her captain to attack any Maryland vessel he meets. Uncle Leonard 
sends out two pinnaces to engage him, and after a bloody fight in the 
Pocomoke River, on the Eastern Shore, the shallop surrenders. Two weeks 
later another Claiborne vessel under command of the same Tom Smith 
fights it out in Pocomoke Harbor. Poor Governor Harvey by this time is 
under such fire from his Council that he flies to England for safety. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 95 ] 

"Meanwhile Uncle Leonard cuts off the Kent Islanders completely, and 
the land being altogether inculta, they commence to starve. Father points 
this out to Cloberry and Company, and so persuades them that they pre- 
tend no farther title to Kent but send a new attorney to Maryland, with 
authority to supersede Claiborne. The devil finally yields, asking only that 
the new man, George Evelyn, not deliver Kent Island to the Marylanders; 
but Evelyn refuses to promise, and so Claiborne withdraws to London, 
where he is sued by Cloberry and charged with mutiny by Governor Harvey. 
Furthermore, Evelyn proceeds to attach all of Claiborne's property in Vir- 
ginia in the name of Cloberry and Company. 

" 'Twas no more than the man deserved," Ebenezer said. 

"He saw we'd got the better of him for the nonce, and so he tried a 
new tack; he buys him Palmer's Island from his cronies the Susquehan- 
noughs, this being in the head of the Chesapeake where their river joins 
it, and sets him up a new trading-post there, pretending he's outside our 
patent. Then he petitions Charles to forbid Father from molesting him 
and further asks with a plain face, mind! for a grant to all the land for 
twelve leagues either side the Susquehannough River, extending south- 
ward down the Bay to the ocean and northward to the Grand Lake of 
Canada!" 

"You don't tell me!" cried Ebenezer in alarm, though he hadn't the 
faintest picture of the geography referred to. 

"Aye," nodded Charles. "The man was mad! 'Twould have given him 
a strip of New England twenty-four leagues in breadth and near three hun- 
dred in length, plus the entire Chesapeake and three fourths of Maryland! 
'Twas his hope to fool the King once more as he'd done in the past, but 
the Lords Commissioners threw out his petition. Evelyn then acknowledged 
Father's title to Kent, and Uncle Leonard named him Commander of the 
Island. He attempted to persuade the Islanders to apply to Father for title 
to their land and might have won them over,, were't not that the rascally 
Tom Smith is established there, along with Claiborne's brother-in-law, and 
betwixt the two some armed resistance is mustered against Evelyn. There 
was naught for't then but to reduce 'em for good and all, the more since 
word had it that Claiborne and Tom Smith were fortifying Palmer's Island 
as well. Uncle Leonard himself led two expeditions against the islands, re- 
duced them, jailed Smith and John Boteler Claiborne's kin and confis- 
cated all of Claiborne's property in the Province." 

"I trust that chastened the knave!" 

"For a time/' Charles replied. "He got him an island in the Bahamas 



[96] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

in 1638, and we saw none of him for four or five years. As for Smith and 
Boteler, we had 'em jailed, but since the Assembly had never yet convened, 
we had no jury to indict 'em, no law to try 'em under, and no court to 
try 'em in!" 

"How did you manage it?" asked Ebenezer. "Pray don't tell me you 
turned them free!" 

"Why, we convened the Assembly as a grand inquest to bring the in- 
dictment, then magicked 'em into a court to try the case and find the 
prisoners guilty. Uncle Leonard then sentences Smith to hang, the court 
becomes an Assembly again and passes his sentence as a bill (since we'd 
had no law to try the case under), and Uncle Leonard commutes the sen- 
tence to insure that no injustice hath been done. As for Boteler, he was 
let off with a light sentence." 

" Twas a brilliant maneuver!" declared Ebenezer. "A coup de mdttre!" 

" 'Twas but the commencement of our woes," said Charles. "No sooner 
was the Assembly convened than they demanded the right to enact laws, 
albeit the charter plainly reserved that right for the Proprietary, requiring 
only the assent of the freemen. Father resisted for a time but had shortly 
to concede, at least for the nonce, in order to avoid a mutiny ere the 
colony was firmly planted. Howbeit, his acquiescence on this point, me- 
thinks, was our undoing, inasmuch as from that day forward the Assembly 
was at odds with us, and played us false, and lost no chance to diminish 
our power and aggrandize their own." 

He sighed. 

"And as if this weren't sufficient harassment, 'twas about this time we 
learned that the Jesuit missionaries, who since the hour the Ark landed 
had been converting Piscataways by the score, had all the while been 
taking in return large tracts of land in the name of the Church; and one 
fine day they declare to us their intent to hold this enormous territory in- 
dependent of the Proprietary!, They knew Father was Catholic and felt 
themselves a safe distance from the English praemunire writ, and so an- 
nounced that canon law held full sway in the province, and that by the 
Papal Bull In Coena Domini they and their fraudulent landholdings were 
exempt from the common law!" 

"Ah God, such ingrates!" said Ebenezer. 

"What they were ignorant of," Charles continued, "was that Grandfather, 
ere he turned Catholic, had seen his fill of Jesuitry in Ireland, when James 
sent him to investigate the discontent there, 'Twas the Jesuits were foment- 
ing rebellion, and, e'en after turning to Rome, he held no love for 'em 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [97] 

and warned Father of their subtleties. Father, then, to nip't in the bud 
ere the Jesuits snatch the whole Province on the one hand, as Uncle 
Leonard feared, or the Protestants use the incident as excuse for an anti- 
Papist insurrection on the other Father, I say, applied to Rome to recall 
the Jesuits and send him secular priests instead; and after some years of 
dispute the Propaganda ordered it done. 

"Next came Indian trouble. The Susquehannoughs to the north and 
the Nanticokes on the Eastern Shore had always raided the other tribes 
now and again, being hunters and not farmers. But after 1640, for one 
cause or another, they took to attacking plantations here and there in the 
Province, and there was talk of their stirring up our friends the Piscataways 
to join 'em in a wholesale massacre. Uncle Leonard applied to Governor 
Berkeley of Virginia to join him in an expedition to reduce the salvages, 
but Berkeley's Council refused to help us: small matter to them if every 
soul in Maryland lost his scalp! Some said 'twas the French behind it all; 
some alleged 'twas the work of the Jesuits; but I believe 'twas the scheming 
hand of Bill Claibome at work. Nay, I am sure oft!" 

"Claiborne!" said Ebenezer. "How is that? Did I not mishear you, Clai- 
borne was hid somewhere in the Bahamas!" 

"Aye, so he was. But in 1643, what with the Jesuit trouble, and the 
Indian trouble,, and some dissension in the colony over the civil war 'twixt 
Charles and the Parliament, Uncle Leonard returned to London to discuss 
the affairs of the Province with Father, and no sooner did he sail than 
Claiborne commenced slipping up the Bay in secret, trying to stir up 
sedition amongst the Kent Islander?. 'Twas about this time one Richard 
Ingle a sea-captain, atheist, and traitor puts into St. Mary's with a mer- 
chantman called the Reformation, drinks himself drunk, and declares to 
all and sundry that the King is no king, that had he Prince Rupert aboard 
he'd flog him at the capstan and be damned to him, and that he'd take 
off the head of any royalist who durst gainsay him!" 

"Treason!" Ebenezer exclaimed. 

"So said our man Giles Brent, who was Governor against Uncle Leonard's 
return; he jailed Ingle and confiscated his ship. But as quick as we clap 
the blackguard in irons he's set loose by order of our own Councilman, 
Captain Cornwaleys, restored to his ship, and let go free as a fish without 
clearing his vessel or paying his debts!" 

"I am astonished." 

"Now, this Cornwaleys was a soldier and had lately led expeditions to 
make peace with the Nanticokes and drive back the Susquehannoughs, 



[.98 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

despite the great scarcity of powder and shot in the Province. When we 
impeached him for freeing Ingle, 'twas said in his defense he'd exacted 
promise from the scoundrel to supply us a barrel of powder and four hun- 
dredweight of shot for the defense of the Province and sure enough the 
rascal returns soon after, cursing and assaulting all he meets, and pledges 
the ammunition as bail against a future trial. But ere we see a ball oft, 
off he sails again, flaunting clearance and port-dues, and takes his friend 
Cornwaleys as passenger. 

"'Twas soon clear, to our horror, that Ingle and Claiborne, our two 
worst enemies, had leagued together to do us in, using the English Civil 
War as alibi. Claiborne landed at Kent Island, displayed a false parchment, 
and swore 'twas his commission from the King to command the Island. 
At the same time, the roundhead Ingle storms St. Mary's with an armed 
ship and his own false parchment, which he calls letters of marque from 
the Parliament; he reduces the city, drives Uncle Leonard to flee to Virginia, 
and so with Claiborne's aid claims the whole of Maryland, which for the 
space of two years suffers total anarchy. He pillages here, plunders there, 
seizes property; steals the very locks and hinges of every housedoor, and 
snatches e'en the Great Seal of Maryland itself, it being forty poundsworth 
of good silver. He does not stick e'en at the house and goods of his savior 
Cornwaleys but plunders 'em with the rest, and then has Comwaleys 
jailed in London as his debtor and a traitor to bootl As a final cut he swears 
to the House of Lords he did it all for conscience's sake, forasmuch as 
Cornwaleys and the rest of his victims were wicked Papists and malignantsl" 

"I cannot comprehend it," confessed Ebenezer. 

"In 1646. Uncle Leonard mustered a force with the help of Governor 
Berkeley and recaptured St. Mary's and soon all of Maryland Kent Island 
being the last to submit The Province was ours again, though Uncle 
Leonard's pains were ill rewarded, for he died a year after." 

"Hi!" cried Ebenezer. "What a struggle! I hope with all my heart you 
were plagued no more by the likes of Claiborne but enjoyed your Province 
in peace and harmony!" 

" Twas our due, by Heav'n! It should have been wholly clear to all by 
then, that as the proverb hath it, Tis better to rule than be ruled by the 
rout. But not three years passed ere the pot of faction and sedition boiled 
again." 

"I groan to hear it." 

" Twas mainly Claiborne again, this time in league with Oliver Crom- 
well and the Protestants, though he'd lately been a swaggering royalist." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [99] 

"I swear," said Ebenezer, "the fellow's a very Vicar of Bray for shifting 
with the weather!" 

"Some years before, when the Anglicans ran the Puritans out of Virginia, 
Uncle Leonard had given 'em leave to make a town called Providence on 
the Severn River, inasmuch as none suffered in Maryland by reason of 
his faith. But these Protestants were arch ingrates, and despised us Roman- 
ists, and would swear no allegiance to Father. They plainly declared their 
eagerness for his overthrow and watched jealously for any excuse to seize 
the government. When Charles I was beheaded and Charles II driven to 
exile, Father made no protest but acknowledged Parliament's authority; 
he e'en saw to't that the Catholic Thomas Greene, Governor after Uncle 
Leonard died, was replaced by a Protestant and friend of Parliament, Wil- 
liam Stone, so's to give the malcontents in Providence no occasion to 
rebel. His thanks for this wisdom was to have Charles II, exiled on the 
Isle of Jersey, declare him a Roundhead and grant the Maryland govern- 
ment to Sir William Davenant, the poet/' 

"Davenant!" exclaimed Ebenezer. "Ah, now, 'tis a right noble vision, 
the poet-king! Yet do I blush for my craft, that the fellow took a prize so 
unfairly giv'n." 

"He got not far with't, for no sooner did he sail for Maryland than a 
Parliament cruiser waylaid him in the Channel off Lands End, and that 
scotched him." 

"Colleague or no,' 7 Ebenezer declared, "I've no pity for him." 

"Now Virginia,, don't you know, was royalist to the end, and when she 
proclaimed Charles II directly his father was axed, Parliament made ready 
a fleet to reduce her to submission. Just then, in 1650, our Governor Stone 
hied him to Virginia on business and deputized his predecessor Thomas 
Greene to govern till his return. 'Twas a fool's decision, inasmuch as this 
Greene still smarted at having been replaced and despised Father as a 
traitor to the Crown and the Roman Church. Directly he's deputized he 
declares with Virginia for Charles II as the rightful ruler of England, and 
for all Governor Stone hastens back and turns the fellow out, the damage 
is done! The dastard Dick Ingle was still a free man in London, and directly 
word reached him he flew to the committee in charge of reducing Virginia 
and caused 'em to add Maryland to the commission. How the man yearned 
to plunder us again! But Father caught wind oft, and ere the fleet sailed 
he petitioned that Greene's proclamation had been made without his 
authority or knowledge, and caused the name of Maryland to be stricken 
from the commission. Thinking that guaranty enough, he retired: straight- 



[ 100 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

way sly Bill Claiborne appears and, trusting as always that the committee 
knows naught of American geography, sees to't the commission is rewrit 
to include all the plantations within the Bay of Chesapeake which is to 
say, all of Maryland! What's more, he gets himself appointed as an alternate 
commissioner of Parliament to sail with the fleet. There were three com- 
missioners all reasonable gentlemen, if misled and two alternates: 
Claiborne and another scoundrel, Richard Bennett, that had taken ref- 
uge in our Providence town what time Virginia turned out her Puritans." 

"Marry!" cried Ebenezer. "I ne'er have heard of such perfidy!" 

"Stay," said Charles. "Not content with being alternates, Claiborne 
and Bennett see to't two of the commissioners are lost at sea during the 
passage, and step ashore at Point Comfort with full authority over both 
Virginia and Maryland!" 

" 'Sbodikins! The man's a very Machiavell" 

"They reduce Virginia; Bennett appoints himself Governor and 
Claiborne Secretary of State; then they turn to Maryland, where the rascals 
in Providence greet 'em with open arms. Good Governor Stone is de- 
posed, Catholics are stripped of their rights wholesale, and all Father's 
authority is snatched away. As a last stroke, Claiborne and Bennett rouse 
up the old Virginia Company to petition for wiping Maryland off the map 
entirely and restoring the ancient boundaries of Virginia! Father pled 
his case to the Commissioners for Plantations, and while it lay a-cooking 
he reminded Oliver Cromwell that Maryland had stayed loyal to the Com- 
monwealth in the face of her royalist neighbors. Cromwell heard him out, 
and later, when he dissolved Parliament and named himself Lord Protector, 
he assured Father of his favor. 

"Governor Stone meanwhile had got himself back into office, and 
Father ordered him to proclaim the Protectorate and declare the commis- 
sioners' authority expired. Claiborne and Bennett muster a force of their 
own and depose Stone again favor of the Puritan William Fuller from 
Providence, Father appeals to Cromwell, Cromwell sends an order to Ben- 
nett and Claiborne to desist, and Father orders Stone to raise a force and 
march on Fuller in Providence. But Fuller hath more guns,, and so he forces 
Stone's men to surrender on promise of quarter. No sooner doth he have 
'em than he murders four of Stone's lieutenants on the spot and throws 
Stone, grievously wounded, into prison. Fuller's beasts then seize the Great 
Seal, confiscate and plunder at will, and drive all Catholic priests out of 
the Province in fear of their lives; Claiborne and his cohorts raise a hue 
and a ciy again to the Commissioners for Plantations. But 'tis all in vain, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 1O1 ] 

for at last, in 1658, the Province is restored to Father, and the government 
delivered to Josias Fendall, whom Father had named to represent him after 
Stone was jailed." 

"Thank Heav'n!" said Ebenezer. "All's well that ends well!" 
"And ill as ends ill," replied Charles, "for that same year, 1658, Fendall 
turned traitor/' 

"Tis too much!" cried Ebenezer. "Tis a surfeit of treachery!" 
"Tis the plain truth. Some say he was the tool of Fuller and Claiborne, 
inasmuch as Fuller had once arrested him and released him only on 
oath of allegiance to the poltroons. However 'twas, Cromwell being dead 
and his son a weakling, Fendall persuaded the Assembly to declare them- 
selves independent of the Proprietary, overthrew the whole constitution 
of the Province, and usurped every trace of Father's authority. TwouldVe 
been a sorry time for us, had not Charles II been restored to the throne 
shortly after. Father, Heav'n knows how, made peace with him, and ob- 
tained royal letters commanding all to support his government and directing 
Berkeley of Virginia to aid him. Uncle Philip Calvert was named governor, 
and the whole conspiracy collapsed at once: Maryland was ours again 
albeit the Assembly remained a thorn in our side." 
"Dare I hope your trials ended there?" asked Ebenezer. 
"For a time we suffered no more rebellions," Charles admitted. "I came 
to St. Mary's as governor in 1661, and in 1675, when my dear father died, 
I became third Lord Baltimore. During that time our only real troubles 
were scattered assaults by the Indians and certain attempts by the Dutch, 
the Swedes, and others to snatch away some of our land by the old hactenus 
inculta gambit. The Dutch had long before settled illegally on the Dela- 
ware River, and Governor D'Hinoyossa of New Amstel stirred up the 
Jhonadoes, the Cinagoes, and the Mingoes against us. I considered making 
war on him, but decided against it for fear King Charles (who had already 
broken sundry of my charter-privileges) might take the opportunity to seize 
the whole Delaware territoryI lost it anyhow in 1664, to his brother the 
Duke of York, and could not raise a word of protest. 

"The year I became Lord Baltimore it happened that the Cinagoes (what 
the French call Seneques) descended on the Susquehannoughs, who were 
fierce enough themselves, and they in turn overran Maryland and Virginia. 
The outrages that followed were the excuse for Bacon's Rebellion in Vir- 
ginia and the cause of much unrest in Maryland. Some time before, in 
order to harness somewhat the malcontents and seditionists in the Assem- 
bly, I had restricted the suffrage to the better class of citizens, and held 



[l02] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the Assembly in long session to avoid the risk of new elections; but even 
this failed to quiet things insurrection was in the very air, and no governor 
durst raise an army to quell Indians or conspirators for fear 'twould turn 
on him. My enemies intrigued against me from all quarters. Even old 
Claiborne reappears on the scene, albeit he was well past eighty, and, pos- 
ing as a royalist again, petitions the King against me to no avail, happily, 
and 'twas my indescribable pleasure not long after to hear of the scoundrel's 
death in Virginia." 

" Tis my pleasure as well to hear oft now," declared Ebenezer, "for I'd 
come to fear the knave was immortal! We are the better for his passing, 
I swear!" 

"I was accused of everything from Popery to defrauding the King's rev- 
enues," Charles went on. "As if my own weren't being defrauded on every 
side! When Nat Bacon turned his private army on Governor Berkeley in 
Virginia, a pair of rascals named William Davis and John Pate attempted 
a like rebellion in Calvert County urged on, I think, by the turncoats 
William Fuller and Josias Fendall, who ranged privily about the Province 
causing trouble. I was in London at the time, but when I heard of the 
thing, and heard it said that the insurgents denied the lawfulness of my 
Assembly, I straightway had my deputy hang the both of 'em,, and nipped 
the matter ere it got out of hand. But not four years later the traitor Fen- 
dall conspires with a new villain to incite a new revolt: This was the false 
priest, John Coode, I spoke of, that puts e'en Black Bill Claiborne in the, 
shade. I squelched their game in time and banished Fendall forever, though 
the conniving Assembly let Coode off free as a bird, to cause more trouble 
later. 

"After this the intrigues and tribulations came in a great rush, such that 
six Lords Proprietary could scarce have dealt with all In 1681, to settle a 
private debt, King Charles grants a large area north of Maryland to William 
Penn-may his Quaker fat be rendered in the fires of helll-and immedi- 
ately I'm put to't to defend my northern border against his smooth de- 
ceits and machinations. 'Twas laid out in my charter that Maryland's 
north boundary is Latitude Forty, and to mark that parallel I had long 
since caused a blockhouse to be built for the Susquehannoughs. Penn 
agreed with me that his boundary should run north of the blockhouse, 
but when his grant appeared no mention at all was made oft. Instead there 
was a string of nonsense fit to muddle any templar, and to insure his scheme 
Penn sent out a lying surveyor with a crooked sextant to take his obser- 
vations. The upshot oft was, he declared his southern boundary to be 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 103 ] 

eight miles south of my blockhouse and resorted to every evasion and sub- 
terfuge to avoid conferring with me on this outrage. When finally we treed 
him and proposed a mutual observation, he pled a broken sextant; and 
when our own instrument showed the line in its true location, he accused 
me of subverting the King's authority. So concerned was he that the 
boundary fall where he wished, he proposed a devil's bag of tricks to gain 
it. Measure north from the Capes, he says, at the short measure of sixty 
miles to the degree; lower your south border by thirty miles, he says, and 
snatch land from the Virginians; measure two degrees north from Watkins 
Point, he says. Then I ask him, 'Why this measuring and land-snatching? 
Why not take sextant in hand- and find the fortieth parallel for good and 
all? 7 At last he agrees, but only on condition that should the line fall north 
of where he wants it, I must sell him the difference at a 'gentleman's 
price/" 

"I cannot fathom it," Ebenezer admitted. "All this talk of sextants and 
parallels leaves me faint." 

"The truth was," said Charles, "Penn had sworn to his Society for Trade 
that his grant included the headwaters of the Bay and he was resolved to 
have't, come what might, for all his lying pieties and smooth platitudes. 
When all else failed he fell to plotting with his friend the Duke of York 
next door, and when to my great distress the Duke took the throne as 
James II, Penn conjures him up that accursed specter of a hactenus inculta 
again and gets himself granted the whole Delaware territory, the which 
was neither his to take nor James's to grant, but clearly and unmistakably 
mine. 

"Matters reached such a pass that though I feared to leave the Province 
to my enemies for e'en a minute, I had no recourse but to sail for London 
in 1684 to fight this Penn's intrigues. Now for some time I had been falsely 
accused of allowing smugglers to defraud the King's port-revenues and of 
failing to assist the royal tax collectors, and had even paid a fine for't 
No sooner do I weigh anchor for London than my kinsman George Talbot 
in St. Mary's allows a rascally beast of a tax collector to anger him and 
stabs the knave dead. Twas a fool's act, and my enemies seized on't at 
once. Against all justice they refuse to try him in the Province, but instead 
deliver him to Effingham, then governor of Virginiawho, by the way, 
later plotted with the Privy Council to have the whole of Maryland granted 
to himself! and 'twas all I could manage to save his neck. Shortly after- 
wards another customs officer is murthered, and though 'twas a private 
quarrel, my enemies put the two together to color me a traitor to the Crown. 



[ 104 1 THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Penn, meanwhile, commenced a quo warranto suit against my entire 
charter, and with his friend on the throne I doubt not what would have 
been the result: as't happened, the folk of England just then pressed their 
own quo warranto, so to speak, against King James, and Penn's game was 
spoilt, for the nonce, by the revolution." 

"I cannot tell how relieved I am to hear it!" Ebenezer declared. 

"Ah," sighed Charles, "but 'twas my loss either way: when James was 
on the throne my enemies called me disloyal to him; when he went in 
exile, and William landed in England, all they cared to remember was that 
both James and I were Catholics. Twas then, at the worst possible time, 
my fool of a Deputy Governor William Josephs sees fit to declare to the 
Assembly his belief in the divine right of kings and, folly of follies, makes 
Maryland proclaim officially the birth of James's Catholic son!" 

"I tremble for you," Ebenezer said. 

" Tis fit, 'tis fit. Naturally, the instant William took the throne I sent 
word to the Maryland Council to proclaim him. But whether from natural 
causes or, as I suspect, from the malice of my enemies, the messenger died 
on shipboard and was buried at sea, and his commission with him, so that 
Maryland remained silent even after Virginia and New England had pro- 
claimed. I sent a second messenger at once, but the harm was done, and 
those who were not crying 'Papist!' were crying 'Jacobite!' On the heels of 
this misfortune, in 1689 my enemies in England caused me to be outlawed 
in Ireland on charges of committing treason there against William in 
James's behalf though in sooth I'd never in my life set foot on Irish soil and 
was at the very moment in England expressly to fight the efforts of James 
and Penn to snatch Maryland from me! To top it all, in March of the same 
year they spread a rumor over Maryland that a great conspiracy of nine 
thousand Catholics and Indians had invaded the Province to murther every 
Protestant in the land: the men sent to Mattapany, at the mouth of the 
Potomac, are told of massacres at the river's head and, rushing there to 
save the day,, find the settlers arming against such massacres as they've 
heard of in Mattapany! For all my friends declare 'tis naught but a sleeve- 
less fear and imagination, the whole Province is up in arms against the 
Catholics." 

"Blind! Blind!" 

"Aye, but 'twas no worse than the anti-Papism here in London," said 
Charles. "My only pleasure in this dark hour was to see that lying Quaker 
Penn himself arrested and jailed as a Jesuit!" 

"Small consolation, but i'faith it cheers me, tool" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 105 ] 

"Naught now remained but for the conspirators to administer the coup 
de grdce, for ne'er had my position been weaker. This they did in July, 
led by the false priest John Coode. He marches on St. Mary's with an 
armed force, promotes himself to the rank of general, and for all he'd used 
to be a Catholic himself, shouts Papist and Jesuit to the skies until the 
whole city surrenders. The President and Council flee to Mattapany, where 
Coode besieges 'em in the fort till they give up the government to him. 
Then, calling themselves the Protestant Associators, they beg King Wil- 
liam to snatch the government for himself I" 

"I am astonished!" Ebenezer said. "Surely King William hanged him!" 

Charles, who had been talking as rapidly and distractedly as though tell- 
ing a rosary of painful beads, now seemed really to notice Ebenezer for 
the first time since commencing the history. 

"My dear Poet. . . ." He smiled thinly. "William is at war with King 
Louis: in the first place, for aught anyone knows the war might spread to 
America, and he is most eager to gain control of all the colonies against 
this possibility. In the second place, war is expensive, and my revenues 
could help to pay his soldiers. In the third place, he holds the crown by 
virtue of an anti-Papist revolution, and I am a Papist. In the fourth place, 
the government of Maryland was imploring him to rescue the province 
from the oppression of Catholics and Indians " 

"Enough, enough!" cried Ebenezer. "I fear me he snatched it!" 

"Aye, he snatched my Maryland from me." 

"But by what legal right " 

"Ah, 'twas wondrous legal," said Charles. "William instructed the At- 
torney General to proceed against my charter by way of scire facias, but 
reflecting afterwards on the time such litigation would require, and the 
treasury's dire need for food, and the possibility of the Court's finding in 
my favor as he was sensible they must if the thing were done aright he 
asks Chief Justice Holt to find him a way to snatch my Maryland with less 
bother. Holt ponders awhile, scratches round till he recalls that jus est id 
quod principi placet, and then declares, in all solemnity, that though 
'twould be better the charter were forfeited in a proper inquisition, yet 
since no inquisition hath been held, and since by the King's own word the . 
matter is urgent, he thinks the King might snatch him the government on 
the instant and do his investigating later." 

"Why," said Ebenezer, "I am aghast! Tis like hanging a man today and 
trying his crime tomorrow!" 

Charles nodded. "In August of 1691 milord Sir Lionel Copley became 



[ 106 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the first royal governor of the crown colony of Maryland," he concluded. 
"My rank fell from that of count palatine, a veritable prince with power 
of life and death over my subjects, to that of common landlord, entitled 
only to my quit rents, my port duty of fourteen pence per ton on foreign 
vessels,, and my tobacco duty of one shilling per hogshead. The Commis- 
sioners of the Privy Seal, be't said to their credit, disputed Lord Holt's 
decision, and in fact when the quo warranto was instigated the allegations 
against me fell to pieces for lack of evidence, and no judgment was found. 
But of course 'twas precisely because he foresaw this that William had 
leaped ere he looked: you may depend on't he held fast to Maryland, 
judgment or no judgment, and clasps her yet like a lover his mistress; for 
Possession is nine points of the law in any case, and with a king 'tis parlia- 
ment, statute book, and courtroom all together! Tis said in sooth, A king's 
favor is no inheritance; and A king promiseth all, and observeth what he 
will" 

"And," added Ebenezer, "He who eats the King's goose shall choke on 
the feathers! 1 

"How?" Charles demanded angrily. "D'you twit me, fellow? Think thee 
Maryland was e'er King William's goose?" 

"Nay, nay!" Ebenezer protested, "You misread the saying! Tis meant to 
signify merely, that A great dowry is a bed full of brambles, don't you 
know: A great man and a great river are ill neighbors, or A king's bounty 
is a mixed blessing' 9 

"Enough, I grasp it. So, then, there is your Maryland, fellow. Think you 
'tis fit for a Marylandiad?" 

"I'faith," replied Ebenezer, "'twere fitter for a Jeremiad! Ne'er have I 
encountered such a string of plots, cabals, murthers, and machinations in 
life or literature as this history you relate me it sets my head a-twirl, and 
chills my blood!" 

Charles smiled, "And doth it haply inspire your pen?" 

"Ah God, what a dolt and boor must Your Lordship think me, to burst 
upon you with grand notions of couplet and eulogy! I swear to you I am 
sorry for't: I shall leave at once." 

. "Stay, stay," said Charles, as Ebenezer rose to leave. "I will confess to 
you, this Marylandiad of yours is not without interest to me/' 

"Nay," Ebenezer said, "you but chide me for punishment," 

"I am an old man," Charles declared, "with small time left on earth " 

"Heav'n forbid!" 

"Nay, 'tis clear truth/' Charles insisted. "The prime of my life, and more, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 107 ] 

I've laid on the altar of a prosperous, well-governed Maryland, which was 
given me in trust by my dear father, and him by his, to husband and 
improve, and which I dreamed of handing on to my son a richer, worthier 
estate for my having ruled it." 

"Ah, many, I am in tears!" 

"And now in my old age I find this shan't be/' Charles continued. 
"Maryland was mine to preserve, and I have lost her for good and all 
Moreover, I am too aged and infirm to make another ocean passage and 
so must die here in England without laying eyes again upon that land as 
dear to my heart as the wife of my body,, and whose abduction and rape 
stings me as e'er did Helen's Menelaus." 

"I can bear no more!" wept Ebenezer, patting his eyes and blowing his 
nose delicately into his handkerchief. 

"I have no authority/' Charles concluded, "and so can no longer confer 
dignities and titles as before. But I declare to you this, Mr. Cooke: hie you 
to Maryland; put her history out of mind and look you at her peerless 
virtues the graciousness of her inhabitants, their good breeding and excel- 
lent dwelling places, the majesty of her laws, the comfort of her inns and 
ordinaries, the richness and beauty of her fields, woods, and waters look you 
at these, I say; study them; mark them well. Then, if you can, turn what you 
see to verse; tune and music it for all the world's ears! Rhyme me such a 
rhyme, Eben Cooke; verse me such a verse, I charge you; make me this 
Maryland, that neither time nor intrigue can rob me of; that I can pass on 
to my son and my son's son and all the ages of the world! Sing me this song, 
sir, and by my faith, in the eyes and heart of Charles Calvert and of every 
Christian lover of Beauty and Justice, thou'rt in sooth Poet and Laureate 
of the Province! And should e'er it come to pass what against all hope and 
expectation I nightly pray for to Holy Mary and all saints that one day 
the entire complexion of things alters, and my sweet province is once again 
restored to her proprietor, then, by Heav'n, I shall confer you the title in 
fact, lettered on sheepskin, beribboned in satin, signed by myself, and 
stamped for the world to gape at with the Great Seal of Maryland!" 

Ebenezer's heart was too full for words: color rushed to his cheeks, his 
features jerked and boiled, tears sprang to his eyes. 

"In the meantime/' Charles went on, "I shall, if t please you, at least 
commission you to write the poem. Nay, better, I'll pen thee a draft of the 
Laureate's commission, and should God e'er grant me back my Maryland, 
'twill retroact to this very day." 



[ 108 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"'SheartlTis past belief!" 

Charles had his man fetch him paper, ink, and quill, and with the air of 
one accustomed to the language of authority, quickly penned the following 
commission: 

CHARLES ABSOLUTE LORD & PROPRIETARY OF THE PROVINCES 
OF MARYLAND & AVALON LORD BARON OF BALTIMORE & To 
Our Trusty and Welbeloved Our Dear Ebenezer Cooke Esq r of Cookes Poynt 
Dorset County Greeting Whereas it is our Desire that the Sundrie Excellencies 
of Our Province of Maryland aforesaid be set down in Verse for Generations 
to Come and Whereas it is Our Conviction that Your talents Well Equip 
You for that Task &* We Do Will and Command you upon the Faith which 
You Owe unto Us that You do compose and construct such an Epical Poem, 
setting forth the Graciousness of Marylands Inhabitants, Their Good Breeding 
and Excellent Dwelling-places, the Majesty of her Laws, the Comfort of Her 
Inns and Ordinaries &* &* and to this Purpose We do Name and Entitle You 
Poet and Laureat of the Province of Maryland Aforesaid. Witness Ourself at 
the City of London the twenty-eighth Day of March in the eighteenth Year 
of Our Dominion over Our said Province of Maryland Annoq Dom 1694 

"Out on't!" he cried, handing the finished draft to Ebenezer. " Tis done^ 
and I wish you fair passage." 

Ebenezer read the commission, flung himself upon his knees before Lord 
Baltimore, and pressed that worthy's coat hem to his lips in gratitude. Then, 
mumbling and stumbling, he pocketed the document, excused himself, and 
ran from the house into the bustling streets of London. 



ii: EBENEZER RETURNS TO HIS COMPANIONS, FINDS 
THEM FEWER BY ONE, LEAVES THEM FEWER BY 
ANOTHER, AND REFLECTS A REFLECTION 



"LOCKET'S!" CRIED EBENEZER TO ms CABMAN, ANT> SPRANG INTO THE 
hackney with a loose flail of limbs like a mismanaged marionette. With 
what a suddenness had he scaled the lofty reaches of Parnassus, while his 
companions blundered yet in the foothills! Snatching out his commission, 
he read again the sweet word Laureat and the catalogue of Maryland's 
excellencies. 

"Sweet land!" he exclaimed. "Pregnant with song! Thy deliverer ap- 
proachethl" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ log ] 

There was a conceit worth saving, he reflected: such subtle vistas of mean- 
ing in the word deliverer, for instance, with its twin suggestions of midwife 
and savior! He lamented having no pen nor any paper other than Balti- 
more's commission, which after kissing he tucked away in his coat. 

"I must purchase me a notebook," he decided. " Twere a pity such wild- 
flowers should die unplucked. No more may I think merely of my own 
delight, for a laureate belongs to the world/' 

Soon the hackney cab reached Locket's, and after rewarding the driver 
most handsomely, Ebenezer hurried to find his colleagues, whom he'd not 
seen since the night of the wager. Once inside, however, he assumed a 
slower, more dignified pace, in keeping with his position, and weaved 
through the crowded tables to where he spied his friends. 

Dick Merriweather, throwing back his head to down a half pint of sack, 
noticed him first. 

" 'Sblood!" he shouted. "Look ye yonder, what comes hitherl Am I 
addled with the sack, or is't Lazarus untombed and walking?" 

"How now!" Tom Trent joined in. "Hath the spring wind thawed ye, 
dear boy? I feared me you was ossified for good and all." 

"Thawed?" said Ben Oliver, and winked. "Nay, Tom, for how could such 
a lover e'er be chilled? 'Tis my guess he's only now regained his strength 
from his mighty joust the night of our wager and is back to take all comers." 

"Lightly, Ben," reproved Tom Trent, and glanced apprehensively at 
John McEvoy beside him, who,, however, was entirely absorbed in regarding 
Ebenezer and seemed not to have heard the remark. " 'Tis unbecoming a 
good fellow, to hold a grudge so long o'er such a trifle." 

"Nay, nay," Ben insisted. "What more pleasant or instructive, I ask you, 
than to hear of great deeds from the lips of their doers? Hither with thee, 
Ebenezer lad. Take a pot with us and tell us all plainly, as a man amongst 
men: What think you now of this Joan Toast that you did swive? How is 
she in the bed, I mean, and what fearsome bargain did you drive for your 
five guineas, that we've seen none of you this entire week, or her since? 
Marry, what a man!" 

"Curb your evil tongue," Ebenezer commanded crisply, taking a seat. 
"You know the story as well as I." 

"Hi!" cried Ben, taken aback. "Such bravery! What, will you say naught 
by way of explanation or defense when a very trollop scorns you?" 

Ebenezer shrugged. " 'Tis near as e'er she'll come to greatness." 

"Great Heav'nl" Tom Trent exclaimed, voicing the general astonish- 



[lio] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

ment. "Who is this stranger with the brave replies? I know the face and I 
know the voice, but b'm'faith, 'tis not the Eben Cooke of old!" 

"Nay," agreed Dick Merriweather, " 'tis some swaggering impostor. The 
Cooke I knew was e'er a shy fellow, something stiff in the joints, and no 
great hand at raillery. Know you aught of his whereabouts?" he asked 
Ebenezer. 

"Aye" Ebenezer smiled "I know him well, for 'twas I alone saw him 
die and wrote his elegy." 

"And prithee, sir, what carried him off?" inquired Ben Oliver with as 
much of a sneer as could be salvaged from his recent confounding. "Belike 
'twas the pain of unrequited love?" 

"Your ignorance of the facts," Ebenezer replied, "is matched only 
by the deficiency of your imagination. The truth of the matter is, sirs, he 
perished in childbirth the night of the wager and never learned that what 
he'd been suffering was the pains of labor the more intense, for that he'd 
carried the fetus since childhood and was brought to bed oft uncommon 
late. Howbeit, 'twas the world's good luck he had him an able midwife, 
who delivered full-grown the man you see before you." 

"Ffaith!" declared Dick Merriweather. "I have fair lost sight o' you in 
this Hampton Court Hedge of a conceit! Speak literally, n't please you, if 
only for a sentence, and lay open plainly what is signified by all this talk of 
death and midwives and the rest of the allegory." 

"I shall," smiled Ebenezer, "but I would Joan Toast were present to 
hear't, inasmuch as 'twas she who played all innocently the midwife's part. 
Do fetch her, McEvoy, that all the world may know I bear no ill will towards 
either of you. Albeit you acted from malice, yet, as the proverb hath it, 
Many a thing groweih in the garden, that was not planted there; or even 
A man's fortune may be made by his enviers. Certain it is, your mischief 
bore fruit beyond my grandest dreams! You said of me once that I compre- 
hend naught of life, and perchance 'tis true; but you must allow farther 
that Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread, and that A castle may be 
taken by storm, that ne'er would fall to siege. The fact is, I've wondrous 
news to tell. Will you summon her?" 

Ever since Ebenezer's appearance in the winehouse, and throughout all 
the raillery and allegorizing, McEvoy had sat quietly, even sullenly, without 
comment or apparent curiosity. Now, however, he got up from his place, 
growled "Summon her yourself, damn ye!" and left the tavern in a great 
sulk. 

"What ails him?" asked Ebenezer. "The man meant me a dastard injury 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 111 ] 

doth it chagrin him that it misfired into fortune? Twas a civil request; did 
I know Joan's whereabouts I'd fetch her myself." 

"So I doubt not would he/' Ben Oliver said. 

"What is't you say?" 

"Did you not hear it said before," asked Tom Trent, "that nor hide nor 
hair of your Joan have we seen these three days past?" 

"I took it for a simple twit," said Ebenezer. "You mean she's gone in 
sooth?" 

"Aye," affirmed Dick, "the tart is vanished from sight, and not her hus- 
band nor any soul else knows aught oft. The last anyone saw of her was 
the day after the wager. She was in a fearful fret " 

"I'faith," put in Ben, "there was no speaking to the woman!" 

"We took it for a pout," Dick went on, "forasmuch as you'd That is 

to say " 

"She'd scorned four guineas from a good man," Ben declared in a last 
effort at contempt, "and got in exchange a penceless preachment from " 

"From Ebenezer Cooke, my friends," Ebenezer finished, unable to hold 
back the news any longer, "who this very day hath been named by Lord 
Baltimore to be Poet and Laureate of the entire Province of Maryland! 
And you've not seen the wench since, you say?" 

But none heard the question: they looked at each other and at Ebenezer. 

"Egad!" 

"'Sblood!" 

"Is't true? Thou'rt Laureate of Maryland?" 

"Aye," said Ebenezer, who actually had said only that he'd been named 
Laureate, but deemed it too late, among other things, to clarify the 
misunderstanding. "I sail a few days hence for America, to manage the 
estate where I was born, and by command of Lord Baltimore to do the 
office of Laureate for the colony." 

"Have you commission and all?" Tom Trent marveled. 

Ebenezer did not hesitate. "The Laureate's commission is in the writ- 
ing," he explained, "but already I'm commissioned to turn him a poem." 
He pretended to search his pockets and came up with the document in his 
coat, which he passed around the table to great effect. 

"By Heav'n 'tis true!" Tom said reverently. 

"Laureate of Maryland! It staggers me!" said Dick. 

"I will confess," said Ben, visibly awed, "I'd ne'er have guessed it possible. 
But out on't! Here's a pot to you, Master Laureate! Hi there, barman, a pint 
all around! Come, Tom! Ho, Dick! Let's have a health, nowl" 



[ 112 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Gladly!" 

"Here's to him!" 

"I hope I may call it," said Ben, putting his arm about Ebenezer's 
shoulders, "for 'tis many a night old Eben's taken my twitting in good 
grace, that would have rankled a meaner spirit. Twould be as fair an honor 
to propose this health t'you, friend, as 'twill be for me to pay for't. Prithee 
grant me that, and 'twere proof of a grace commensurate to thy talent." 

"Your praise flatters me the more," Ebenezer said modestly, "for that I 
know you how well! to be no flatterer. Tis a double honor," he pointed 
out further, "to be toasted by such a toaster, and by how much the less I 
merit your compliments, by so much the more am I humbled by 'em. In 
fine, toast away if you will, and a long life to you!" 

The waiter had by this time brought the pints, and the four men raised 
their glasses. 

"Nay," cried Ben, thinking better of it, "all London must know it! Hi 
there,, sots and poetasters!" He shouted to the house at large, springing up 
on the table. "Put by your gossip for the nonce and drink a health with me 
as worthy a health as e'er was drunk under these rafters!" 

"Nay, I beg you, Ben!" Ebenezer protested, tugging Ben's coat 

"Hear!" cried several patrons, for Ben was a favorite among them. 

"Drag off yon skinny fop and raise your glasses!" someone cried. 

"Scramble up here," Ben ordered, and Ebenezer was lifted willy-nilly to 
the table top, somewhat uncertain about the propriety of accepting the 
compliment. 

"To the long life, good health, and unfailing talent of Ebenezer Cooke," 
Ben proposed, and everyone in the room raised his glass, "who while we 
lesser fry spent our energies braying and strutting, sat aloof and husbanded 
his own, and crowed him not a crow nor, knowing himself an eagle, cared 
a bean what barnyard fowl thought of him; and who, therefore, while the 
rest of us cocks must scratch our dunghills in feeble envy, hath spread his 
wings and taken flight, for who can tell what lofty eyrie! I give thee 
Ebenezer Cooke, lads, twitted and teased by all none more than myself 
who this day was made Poet and Laureate of the Province of Maryland!" 

A general murmur went round the room, followed by a clamor of polite 
congratulation that rushed like wine to Ebenezer's heaH, for it was the first 
such experience in the entire span of his life. 

"I thank you," he said thickly to the room, his eyes filling. "I can say 
no more!" 

"Hear! Hear!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [l 1 ?] 

"A poem, sir!" someone called. 

"Aye, a poem!" 

Ebenezer got hold of himself and stayed the clamor with a gesture. 
"Nay," he said, "the muse is no minstrel, that sings for a pot in the taverns; 
besides, I've not a line upon me. This is the place for a toast, not for poetry, 
and 'twill greatly please me do you join my toast to my magnanimous 
patron Lord Baltimore " 

A few glasses went up, but not many, for anti-Papist feeling was running 
high in London. 

"To the Maryland Muse " Ebenezer added, perceiving the small 

response, and got a few more hands for his trouble. 

"To Poetry, fairest of the arts" many additional glasses were raised 
"and to every poet and good-fellow in this tavern, which for gay and gifted 
patrons hath not its like in the hemisphere!" 

"Hearl" the crowd saluted, and downed the toast to a man. 

It was near midnight when Ebenezer returned at last to his rooms, dizzy 
from excessive wine and applause. He called in vain for Bertrand and tipsily 
commenced undressing, still very full of his success. But whether because of 
the silence of his room after Locket's or the unhappy sight of his bed lying 
still unmade as he'd left it in the morning, the linens all rumpled and soiled 
from his four days' despair, or some more subtle agency, his gaiety seemed 
to leave him with his clothes; when at length he had stripped himself of 
shoes, drawers, shirt, and periwig, and stood shaved, shorn, and mother- 
naked in the center of his room, his mind was dull,, his eyes listless, his 
stance uncertain. The great success of his first plunge still thrilled him to 
contemplate, but no longer was it entirely a pleasurable excitement. His 
stomach felt weak. All that Charles had told him of the tumultuous history 
of Maryland came like a bad dream to his memory, and turning out the 
lamp he hurried to the window for fresh air. 

Despite the hour, London bristled in the darkness beneath and all around 
him with a quiet roar, from which came at intervals here a drunkard's 
shout, there a cabman's curse, the laughter of a streetwalker, the whinny of 
a horse. A damp spring breeze moved in off the Thames and breathed on 
him: out there on the river that winds through the city, anchors were being 
weighed and catted, sails unfurled from yards and sheeted home, bearings 
taken, soundings called, and dark ships run down the tide, out the black 
Channel, and thence to the boundless ocean, cresting and tossing under 
the moon. Great restless creatures were stirring and gliding in the depths; 



[114] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

pale gray sea birds wheeling and shrieking down the night wind, or planing 
wildly against the scud. And could one then suppose that somewhere far 
out under the stars there really lay a Maryland, against whose long sand 
coasts the black sea foamed? That at that very instant, peradventure, some 
naked Indian prowled the reedy dunes or stalked his quarry down whisper- 
ing aisles of the forest? 

Ebenezer shuddered, turned from the window, and drew the curtains 
fast. His stomach was extremely uneasy. He lay down on the bed and tried 
to sleep, but with no success: the daring of his interview with Charles 
Calvert, and all that followed on it, kept him tossing and turning long 
after his muscles had begun to ache and his eyes to bum for sleep. The 
specters of William Claiborne, Richard Ingle, William Penn, Josias 
Fendall, and John Coode their strange and terrible energy, their in- 
trigues and insurrectionschilled and sickened him but refused to be driven 
from his awareness; and he could not give over remembering and pronounc- 
ing his title even after repetition had taken pleasure and sense from the 
epithet and left it a nightmare string of empty sounds. His saliva ran freely; 
he was going to be ill. Poet and Laureate of the Province of Maryland! 
He had leaped astride life and set out on his journey. There was no turning 
back now. Out under the night, Maryland and his single mortal destiny 
awaited him. 

"Ah, God!" he wept at last, and sprang from the bed in an icy sweat. 
Running to the chamber pot he flung off the lid and with a retch heaved 
into it the wine of his triumph. Once delivered of it, he felt somewhat 
calmer: he returned to the bed, clasped his knees against his chest to quiet 
the agitation of his stomach, and so contrived, after countless fretful sighs, 
a sort of sleep. 



PART II: GOING TO MALDEN 



i: THE LAUREATE ACQUIRES A NOTEBOOK 



HAPPILY, WHATEVER TREPIDATIONS OR DANK NIGHT DOUBTS HAD LATELY 

plagued the Laureate's repose, when the sun rose next morning over Lon- 
don they were burned off with the mist of the Thames; he woke at nine 
refreshed in body and spirit, and, when he remembered the happenings of 
the day before and his new office, it was with unalloyed delight. 

"Bertrand! You, Bertrandl" he called, springing from the bed. "Are you 
there, fellow?" 

His man appeared at once from the next room. 

"Did you sleep well, sir?" 

"Like a silly babe. What a morning! It ravishes me!" 

"Methought I heard ye taken with the heaves last night." 

" 'Sheart, a sour pint, belike, at Locket's," Ebenezer replied lightly, "or 
a stein of green ale. Fetch my shirt there, will you? There's a good fellow. 
Egad, what smells as fresh as new-pressed linen or feels as clean?" 

" Tis a marvel ye threw it off so. Such a groaning and a hollowing!" 

"Indeed?" Ebenezer laughed and began to dress with leisurely care. 
"Nay, not those; my knit cottons today. Hollowing, you say? Some passing 
nightmare, I doubt not; I've no memory oft Nothing to fetch surgeon or 
priest about." 

"Priest, sir!" Bertrand exclaimed with a measure of alarm. "Tis true, 
then, what they say?" 

"It may be, or it may not. Who are they, and what is their story?" 

"Some have it, sir," Bertrand replied glibly, "thou'rt in Lord Baltimore's 
employ, who all the world knows is a famous Papist, and that 'twas only on 
your conversion to Rome he gave ye your post." 

" 'Dslife!" Ebenezer turned to his man incredulously. "What scurrilous 
libel! How came you to hear it?" 

Bertrand blushed. "Begging your pardon, sir, ye may have marked ere 
now that albeit I am a bachelor, I am not without interest in the ladies, 
and that, to speak plainly, I and a certain young serving maid belowstairs 
have, ah, what ye might call - " 



[ll8] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"An understanding," Ebenezer suggested impatiently. "Do I know it, 
you scoundrel? D'you think I've not heard the twain of you clipping and 
tumbling the nights away in your room, when you thought me asleep? 
I'faith, 'tis enough to wake the dead! If my poor puking cost you an hour's 
sleep last night, 'tis not the hundredth part of what I owe you! Is't she told 
you this tale of a cock and a bull?" 

"Aye," admitted Bertrand, "but 'twas not of her making." 

'Whence came it, then? Get to the point, man! Tis a sorry matter when 
a poet cannot accept an honor without suffering on the instant the slanders 
of the envious, or make a harmless trope without his man's crying Popery!" 

"I crave your pardon, sir," said Bertrand. " Twas no accusation, only 
concern; I thought it my duty to tell ye what your enemies are saying. The 
fact is, sir, my Betsy, who is a hot-blooded, affectionate lass, hath the bad 
luck to be married, and that to a lackluster, chilly fellow whose only passions 
are ambition and miserliness, and who, though he'd like a sturdy son to 
bring home extra wages, is as sparing with caresses as with coins. Such a 
money-grubber is he that, after a day's work as a clerk's apprentice in the 
Customs House, he labors half the night as a fiddler in Locket's to put by 
an extra crown, with the excuse 'tis a nest egg against the day she finds 
herself with child. But 'sblood, 'tis such a tax on his time that he scarce sees 
her from one day to the next and on his strength that he hath not the 
wherewithal to roger what time he's with her! It seemed a sinful waste to 
me to see, on the one hand, poor Betsy alone and all a-fidget for want of 
husbanding, and on the other her husband Ralph a-hoarding money to no 
purpose, and so like a proper Samaritan I did what I could for the both of 
'em: Ralph fiddled and I diddled." 

"How's that, you rascal? The both of 'em! Small favor to the husband, 
to bless him with horns! What a villainy!" 

"Ah, on the contrary, sir, if I may say so, 'twas a double boon I did him, 
for not only did I plough his field, which else had lain fallow, but seeded it 
as well, and from every sign 'twill be a bumper crop come fall. Look ye, 
sir, ere ye judge me a monster; the lad knew naught but toil and thankless 
drudgery before and took no pleasure in't, save the satisfaction of drawing 
his wage. He came home to a wife who carped and quarreled for lack o' love 
and was set to leave him for good, which would've been the death of him. 
Now he works harder than ever, proud as a peacock he's got a son a-building, 
and his clerking and fiddling have changed from mere labor to royal sport. 
As for Betsy, that was wont to nag and bark at him before, she's turned 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 119 ] 

sweet as a sugar-tit and jumps to his every whim and fancy; she would not 
leave him for the Duke o' York. Man and wife are both the happier fort/' 

"And thou'rt the richer by a mistress that costs you not a farthing to 
keep," Ebenezer added, "and on whom you may get a household of 
bastards with impunity!" 

Bertrand shrugged, adjusting his master's cravat. 

"As't happens, yes," he admitted* "though I hear't said that virtue is its 
own reward." 

"Then 'twas this cuckold of a fiddler started the story?" demanded 
Ebenezer. "I'll take the wretch to court!" 

"Nay, 'twas but gossip he passed on to Betsy last night, who passed it 
on to me this morning. He had it from the drinkers at Locket's, after all the 
toasting was done and you were gone." 

"Unconscionable envy and malice!" Ebenezer cried. "Do you believe it?" 

"Many, sir, 'tis no concern o' mine what persuasion ye follow. I'll confess 
I wondered, after Betsy told me, whether all thy hollowing and pitching 
last night was not a free-for-all 'twixt you and your conscience, or some 
strange Papish ceremony, for I know they've a bag of 'em for every time 
o'day. B'm'faith, 'twere mere good business, methinks, to take his supersti- 
tious vows for him, if that's the condition for the post. Soon or late, we all 
must strike our bargains with the world. Everything hath its price, and 
yours was no dear one, inasmuch as neither milord Baltimore nor any other 
Jesuit can see what's in your heart. All ye need do is say him his hey-nonny- 
nonnies whenever he's there to hear 'em; as for the rest of the world, 'tis 
none o' their concern what office ye hold, or what it cost ye, or who got it 
for ye. Keep mum on't, draw your pay, and let the Pope and the world 
go hang." 

"Lord, hear the cynic!" said Ebenezer. "My word on't, Bertrand, I 
struck no bargain with Lord Baltimore^ nor dickered and haggled any quid 
pro quos. I'm no more Papist this morning than I was last week, and as for 
salary, my office pays me not a shilling." 

" Tis the soundest stand to take," Bertrand nodded knowingly, "if any 
man questions ye." 

" 'Tis the simple truth! And so far from keeping my appointment secret, 
I mean to declare it to all and sundry within the bounds of modesty, of 
course/' 

"Ah, ye'll regret that!" Bertrand warned. "If ye declare the office, 'tis no 
use denying ye turned Papist to get it. The world believes what it pleases." 



[ 12O ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"And doth it relish naught save slander and spite and fantastical 
allegation?" 

" Tis not so fantastic a story/' Bertrand said, "though mind ye, I don't 
say 'tis true. There's a lot goes on behind the scenes, if ye just but knew 
it. More history's made by secret handshakes than by battles, bills, and 
proclamations! 9 

"And are all human motives really so despicable?" 

"Aye, sir. Why do you ask?" 

"Nay, nay!" Ebenezer protested. "Such libels are but the weapon of the 
mediocre against the talented. Those fops at Locket's daren't allow the 
legitimacy of my laureateship, inasmuch as 'twere but a declaration of their 
own lack of ability. They slander me to solace themselves! As for your 
cynical philosophy, that sees a plot in every preferment, methinks 'tis but 
mere wishful thinking, the mark of a domestical mind, which attributes to 
the world at large all the drama and dark excitement that it fails to find 
in its own activity." 

" Tis all above me, this philosophy/' Bertrand said. "I know only what 
they say." 

"Popery indeed! Dear God, I am ill of London! Fetch my traveling wig, 
Bertrand; I shan't abide another day in this place!" 

"Where will ye go, sir?" 

"To Plymouth, by the afternoon coach. See to't my chests and trunks are 
packed and loaded,, will you? 'Sheart, how shall I endure e'en another 
morning in this vicious city?" 

"Plymouth so soon, sir?" asked Bertrand, 

"Aye, the sooner the better. Have you found a place?" 

"I fear not, sir. Tis a bad season to seek one, my Betsy says, and 'tis not 
every place I'd take." 

"Ah well, no great matter. These rooms are hired till April's end, and 
thou'rt free to use 'em if you choose. Your wage is paid ahead, and I've 
another crown for you if my bags are on the Plymouth coach betimes." 

"I ihank ye, sir. I would ye weren't going, I swear't, but ye may depend 
on't your gear will be stowed on the coach. Marry, I'll not soon find me a 
civiler master!" 

"Thou'rt a good fellow, Bertrand," Ebenezer smiled. <c Were't not for 
my niggard allowance, I'd freight thee to Maryland with me." 

"I'faith, I've no stomach for bears and salvages, sir! An't please ye, I'll 
stay behind and let my Betsy comfort me for losing ye." 

"Then good luck to you," said Ebenezer as he left, "and may your son 



THE SOT-WEED FACTO* [ 121 ] 

be a strapping fellow. I shan't return here: I mean to waste the whole 
morning buying a notebook for my voyage, rather than pass another minute 
in Locket's or some other den of gossip. Haply I'll see you at the posthouse." 
"Good day then, sir," Bertrand said, "and fare thee welll" 

Irksome as was his false friends' slander, it soon slipped from Ebenezer's 
mind once he was out of doors. The day was too fair, his spirits too high, for 
him to brood much over simple envy. "Leave small thoughts to small 
minds," said he to himself, and so dismissed the matter. 

Much more important was the business at hand: choosing and purchasing 
a notebook. Already his delicious trope of the day before, which he'd 
wanted to set down for future generations, was gone from his memory; how 
many others in years gone by had passed briefly through his mind, like 
lovely women through a room, and gone forever? It must happen no more. 
Let the poetaster and occasional dabbler-in-letters affect that careless fe- 
cundity which sneers at notes and commonplace books: the mature and 
dedicated artist knows better, hoards every gem he mines from the mother 
lode of fancy, and at his leisure sifts the diamonds from the lesser stones. 

He went to the establishment of one Benjamin Bragg, at the Sign of the 
Raven in Paternoster Row a printer, bookseller, and stationer whom he 
and many of his companions patronized. The shop was a clearinghouse for 
minor literary gossip; Bragg himself a smiling, waspish, bright-eyed, honey- 
voiced little man in his forties of whom it was rumored that he was a 
Sodomite knew virtually everyone of literary pretensions in the city, and 
though he was, after all, but a common tradesmen, his favor was much 
sought after. Ebenezer had been uncomfortable in the place ever since his 
first introduction to the proprietor and clientele some years before. He had 
always, until the previous day, been of at least two minds about his own 
talent, as about everything else confident on the one hand (From how 
many hackle-raising ecstasies! From how many transports of inspiration!) 
that he was blessed with the greatest gift since blind John Milton's and 
was destined to take literature singlehandedly by the breech and stand it 
upon its periwig; equally certain, on the other (From how many sloughs 
of gloom, hours of museless vacancy, downright immobilities!) that .he was 
devoid even of talent, to say nothing of genius; a bumbler, a stumbler, a 
witless poser like many another and his visits to Bragg's place, whose 
poised habitues reduced him to mumbling ataxia in half an instant, never 
failed to convert him to the latter opinion, though in other circumstances 



[ 122 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

he could explain away their cleverness to his advantage. In any case, he was 
in the habit of disguising his great uneasiness with the mask of diffidence, 
and Bragg rarely noticed him at all. 

It was to his considerable satisfaction, therefore, that when this time he 
entered the establishment and discreetly asked one of the apprentices to 
show him some notebooks, Bragg himself, catching sight of him, dismissed 
the boy and left the short, wigless customer with whom he'd been gossiping 
in order to serve him personally. 

"Dear Mr. Cooke!" he cried. "You must accept my felicitations on your 
distinction!" 

"What? Oh, indeed/' Ebenezer smiled modestly. "However did you hear 
oft so soon?" 

"So soon!" Bragg warbled. "Tis the talk o' London! I had it yesterday 
from dear Ben Oliver, and today from a score of others. Laureate of 
Maryland! Tell me," he asked, with careful ingenuousness, "was't by Lord 
Baltimore's appointment, as some say, or by the King's? Ben Oliver declares 
'twas from Baltimore and vows he'll turn Quaker and seek the same of 
William Penn for Pennsylvania!" 

"'Twas Lord Baltimore honored me," Ebenezer replied coolly, "who, 
though a Romanist, is as civil a gentleman as any I've met and hath a 
wondrous ear for verse." 

"I am certain oft," Bragg agreed, "though I've ne'er met the man. 
Prithee, sir, how came he to know your work? We're all of us a-flutter to 
read you, yet search as I may I can't find a poem of yours in print, nor hath 
anyone I've asked heard so much as a line of your verse. Marry, I'll confess 
it: we scarce knew you wrote any!" 

"A man may love his house and yet not ride on the ridgepole," observed 
Ebenezer, "and a man may be no less a poet for not declaiming in every 
inn and ordinary or printing up his creatures to be peddled like chestnuts 
on London Bridge." 

"Well said!" Bragg chortled, clapped his hands, and bounced on his heels. 
"Oh, pungently put! 'Twill be repeated at every table in Locket's for a 
fortnight! Ah, 'slife, masterfully put!" He dabbed his eyes with his handker- 
chief. "Would you tell me, Mr. Cooke, if t be not too prying a question, 
whether Lord Baltimore did you this honor in the form of a recommenda- 
tion for King William and the Governor of Maryland to approve, or 
whether 'tis still in Baltimore's power to make and fill official posts? There 
was some debate on the matter here last evening." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 123 ] 

"I daresay there was," Ebenezer said. "Tis my good fortune I missed 
it. Is't your suggestion Lord Baltimore would willfully o'erstep his authority 
and exercise rights he hath no claim to?" 

"Oh, Heav'n forbid!" cried Bragg, wide-eyed. " Twas the farthest thing 
from my mind, sir! Oh, 'sheart! 'Twas a mere civil question, b'm'faithl No 
slight intended!" 

"So be't. Let us have done with questions now, lest I miss the Plymouth 
coach. Will you show me some notebooks?" 

"Indeed, sir, at once! What sort of notebook had you in mind?" 

"What sort?" repeated Ebenezer. "Are there sorts of notebooks, then? I 
knew't not. No matter any sort will serve, I daresay. 'Tis but to take notes 
in." 

"Long notes, sir, or short ones?" 

"How? What a question! How should I know? Both, I suppose!" 

"Ah. And will you take these long and short notes at home, sir, or while 
traveling?" 

"Ffaith,, what difference to you? Both, I should think. A mere silly note- 
book is all my craving." 

"Patience, sir; 'tis only to make certain I sell you naught but fits thy 
need. The man -who knows what he needs, they say, gets what he wants; 
but he who knows not his mind is forever at sixes and sevens and blames 
the blameless world fort." 

"Enough wisdom, I beg you," Ebenezer said uncomfortably. "Sell me a 
notebook fit for long or short notes, both at home and abroad, and have 
done with't." 

"Very well, sir," Bragg said. "Only I must know another wee thing." 

"I'faith, 'tis a Cambridge examination! What is't now?" 

"Is't thy wont to make these notes always at a desk, whether at home or 
abroad, or do you jot 'em down as they strike you, whether strolling, riding, 
or resting? And if the latter, do you yet ne'er pen 'em in the public view, 
or is't public be damned, ye'll write where't please you? And if the latter, 
would you have 'em think you a man whose taste is evidenced by all he 
owns; who is, you might say,, in love with the world? A Geoffrey Chaucer? 
A Will Shakespeare? Or would you rather they took you for a Stoical 
fellow, that cares not a fig for this vale of imperfections, but hath his eye 
fixed always on the Everlasting Beauties of the Spirit: a Plato, I mean, or a 
Don John Donne? 'Tis most necessary I should know." 

Ebenezer smote the counter with his fist. "Damn you, fellow, thou'rt 



r 12 A ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

pulling my leg for fair! Is't some wager you've made with yonder gentle- 
man, to have me act the fool for him? Marry, 'twas my retching hate of 
raillers and hypocrites that drove me here, to spend my final London morn 
sequestered among the implements of my craft, like a soldier in his armory 
or a mariner in the ship chandler's; but I find no simple sanctuary even 
here. By Heav'n, I think not even Nero's lions were allowed in the 
dungeons where the martyrs prayed and fortified themselves, but had to 
stay their hunger till the wretches were properly in the arena. Will you deny 
me that small solace ere I take ship for the wilderness?" 

"Forbear, sir; do forbear," Bragg pleaded, "and think no ill of yonder 
gentleman, who is a perfect stranger to me." 

"Very well. But explain yourself at once and sell me a common notebook 
such as a poet might find useful who is as much a Stoic as an Epicurean." 

"I crave no more than to do just that," Bragg declared. "But I must 
know whether you'll have the folio size or the quarto. The folio, I might 
say, is good for poets, inasmuch as an entire poem can oft be set on facing 
pages, where you can see it whole." 

"Quite sound," Ebenezer acknowledged. "Folio it is/ 7 

"On the other hand, the quarto is more readily lugged about, particularly 
when thou'rt walking or on horseback." 

"True, true," Ebenezer admitted. 

"In the same way, a cardboard binding is cheap and hath a simple 
forthright air; but leather is hardier for traveling, more pleasing to behold, 
and more satisfying to own. What's more, I can give ye unruled sheets, 
such as free the fancy from mundane restraints, accommodate any size of 
hand, and make a handsome page when writ; or ruled sheets, which save 
time, aid writing in carriages or aboard ships, and keep a page neat as a 
pin. Finally, ye may choose a thin book, easy to cany but soon filled, or a 
fat one, cumbersome to travel with but able to store years of thought 'twixt 
single covers. Which shall be the Laureate's notebook?" 

" 'Sbodikins! I am wholly fuddled! Eight species of common notebook?" 

"Sixteen, sir; sixteen, if I may," Bragg said proudly. "Ye may have 

A thin plain cardboard folio, 

A thin plain cardboard quarto, 

A thin plain leather folio, 

A thin ruled cardboard folio, 

A fat plain cardboard folio, 

A thin plain leather quarto, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 125 ] 

A thin ruled cardboard quarto, 

A fat plain cardboard quarto, 

A thin ruled leather folio, 

A fat ruled cardboard folio, 

A fat plain leather folio, 

A thin ruled leather quarto, 

A fat ruled cardboard quarto, 

A fat plain leather quarto, 

A fat ruled leather folio, or 

A fat ruled leather quarto." 

"Stop!" cried Ebenezer, shaking his head as though in pain. "Tis the 
Pit!" 

"I may say also I'm expecting some lovely half-moroccos within the week, 
and if need be I can secure finer or cheaper grades of paper than what 
I stock." 

"Have at thee, Sodomite!" Ebenezer shouted, drawing his short-sword. 
"Tis thy life or mine, for another of thy evil options* and I am lost!" 

"Peace! Peace!" the printer squealed, and ducked under his serving- 
counter. 

"Peace Peace we'll have do I reach thee," Ebenezer threatened; "nor no 
mere pair of pieces, either, b'm'faith, but sixteen count!" 

"Stay, Master Laureate," urged the short, wigless customer; he came from 
across the shop, where he'd been listening with interest to the colloquy, 
and placed his hand on Ebenezer's sword arm. "Calm your wrath, ere't 
lead ye to blight your office." 

"Eh? Ah, to be sure," sighed Ebenezer, and sheathed his sword with 
some embarrassment. " 'Tis the soldier's task to fight battles, is't not, and 
the poet's to sing 'em. But marry, who dares call himself a man that will not 
fight to save his reason?" 

"And who dares call himself reasonable," returned the stranger, "that 
will so be swayed by's passions as to take arms against a feckless shopkeeper? 
Tis thy quandary, do I see't aright, that all these notebooks have their 
separate virtues, yet none is adequate, inasmuch as your purposes range 
'twixt contradictories." 

"You have't firmly," Ebenezer admitted. 

"Then 'tis by no means this poor knave's fault, d'ye think, that he gives 
ye options? He's more to be praised than braised for't. Put by your anger, 
for Anger begins with folly and ends with repentance; it makes a rich man 



[ 126 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

hated and a poor man scorned, and so far from solving problems, only 
multiplies 'em. Follow rather the sweet light of Reason, which like the 
polestar leads the wise helmsman safe to port through the unruly seas of 
passion." 

"Ah, you chasten me, friend," said Ebenezer. "Out with you, Ben Bragg, 
and never fear: I'm my own man again." 

" 'Sheart, thou'rt a spirited fellow for a poet!" Bragg exclaimed, reappear- 
ing from under the counter. 

"Forgive me." 

"There's a good fellow!" said the stranger. "Anger glances into wise men's 
breasts, but rests only in the bosoms of fools. Heed no voice but Reason's." 

"Good counsel, I grant thee," Ebenezer said. "But I'll own it passeth 
my understanding how Solomon himself could reconcile opposites and 
make a plain book elegant or a fat book thin. Not all the logic of Aquinas 
could contrive it!" 

"Then look past him," said the stranger with a smile, "to Aristotle himself, 
and where you find opposite extremes, seek always the Golden Mean. Thus 
Reason dictates: Compromise, Mr. Cooke; compromise. Adieu." 

With that the fellow left, before Ebenezer could thank him or even 
secure his name. 

"Who was that gentleman?" he asked Bragg. 

" 'Twas one Peter Sayer," Bragg replied, "that just commissioned me to 
print him some broadsidesmore than that I know not," 

"No native Londoner, I'll wager. What a wondrous wise fellow!" 

"And wears his natural hair!" sighed the printer. "What think ye of his 
advice?" 

" 'Tis worthy a Chief Justice," Ebenezer declared, "and I mean to carry 
it out at once. Fetch me a notebook neither too thick nor too thin, too tall 
nor too small, too simple nor too elegant. Twill be Aristotle from start 
to finish!" 

"Your pardon, sir," Bragg protested; "I have already named my whole 
stock over, and there's not a Golden Mean in the lot. Yet I think ye might 
purchase a book and alter it to suit." 

"How, prithee," Ebenezer asked, looking nervously to the door through 
which Sayer had made his exit, "when I know no more of bookmaking than 
doth a bookseller of poetry?" 

"Peace, peace!" urged Bragg. "Remember the voice of Reason." 

"So be't," Ebenezer said. "Every man to his trade, as Reason hath it 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 12J ] 

Here's a pound for book and alterations. Commence at once, nor let your 
eye drift e'en for an instant from the polestar of Reason." 

'Very good, sir," Bragg replied, pocketing the money. "Now, 'tis but 
reasonable, is't not, that a long board may be sawn short, but a short board 
may not be stretched? And a fat book, likewise, may be thinned, but ne'er 
a thin book fattened?" 

"No Christian man can say you nay," Ebenezer agreed. 

"So, then," said Bragg, taking a handsome, fat, unruled leather folio from 
the shelf, "we take us a great stout fellow, spread him open thusly, and 
compromise him!" Pressing the notebook flat open upon the counter, he 
ripped out several handfuls of pages. 

"Whoa! Stay!" cried Ebenezer. 

"Then," Bragg went on, paying him no heed, "since Reason tells us a 
fine coat may wear shabby, but ne'er a cheap coat fine, we'll just compromise 

this morocco here and there " He snatched up a letter opener near at 

hand and commenced to hack and gouge the leather binding. 

"Hold, there! I'faith, my notebook!" 

"As for the pages," Bragg continued, exchanging the letter opener for 
goose quill and inkpot, "ye may rule 'em as't please ye, with Reason as the 
guide: sidewise" he scratched recklessly across a half-dozen pages 
"lengthwise" he penned hasty verticals on the same pages" or what ye 
will!" He scribbled at random through the whole notebook, 

"'Sbody! My pound!" 

"Which leaves only the matter of size," Bragg concluded: "He must be 
smaller than a folio, yet taller than a quarto. Hark ye, now: methinks the 
voice of Reason orders " 

"Compromise!" Ebenezer shouted, and brought down his sword upon the 
mutilated notebook with such a mighty chop that, had Bragg not just then 
stepped back to contemplate his creation he'd surely have contemplated his 
Creator. The covers parted; the binding let go; pages flew in all directions. 
"Tfort for your damned Golden Mean!" 

"Madman!" Bragg cried, and ran out into the street. "Oh, dear, help! 
Madman!" 

There was no time to lose: Ebenezer sheathed his sword, snatched up 
the first notebook he spied which happened to be lying near at hand, over 
the cash drawer and fled to the rear of the store, through the print shop 
(where two apprentices looked up in wonder from their work) , and out the 
back door. 



: THE LAUREATE DEPARTS FROM LONDON 



THOUGH SEVERAL HOURS YET REMAINED BEFORE DEPARTURE TIME, EBENE- 

zer went from Bragg s directly to the posthouse, ate an early dinner, and 
sipped ale restlessly while waiting for Bertrand to appear with his trunk. 
Never had the prospect of going to Maryland seemed so pleasant: he longed 
to be off! For one thing, after the adventure in Bragg's establishment he 
was more than ever disgusted with London; for another, he rather feared 
that Bragg, to whom he'd mentioned the Plymouth coach, might send men 
after him, though he was certain his pound was more than adequate pay- 
ment for both notebooks. And there was another reason: his heart still beat 
faster when he recalled his swordplay of an hour before, and his face flushed. 

'What a gesture!" he thought admiringly. "'That for your damned 
Golden Mean!' Well said and well done! How it terrified the knave, f faith! 
A good beginning!" He laid his notebook on the table: it was quarto size, 
about an inch thick, with cardboard covers and a leather spine. "Tis not 
what Fd have chosen" he reflected without sorrow, "but 'twas manfully 
got, and 'twill do, 'twill do. Barman!" he called, "Ink and quill, if you 
please!" The writing materials fetched, he opened the notebook in order to 
pen a dedication: to his surprise he found already inscribed on the first page 
B. Bragg, Printer & Stationer, Sign of the Raven, Paternoster Row, London, 
1694, and on the second and third and fourth such entries as BdngZe & 
Son, glaziers, for window-glass, 13/4, and /no. Eastbury, msc printing, 1/3/9 

"'Sblood! Tis Bragg's account book! A common ledger!" Investigating 
further he found that only the first quarter of the book had been used: the 
last entry, dated that same day, read CoZ. Peter Sayer, broadsides, 2/5/0. 
The remaining pages were untouched. "So be't," he smiled, and ripped out 
the used sheets. ' 'Was't not my aim to keep strict account of my traffic with 
the muse?" Inking his quill, he wrote across the first new page Ebenezer 
Cooke, Poet & Laureate of Maryland and then observed (it being a ledger 
of the double-entry variety) that his name fell in the Debit column and 
his title in the Credit. 

"Nay, 'twill never do," he decided, "for to call my office an asset to me 
is but to call me a liability to my office." He tore out the sheet and reversed 
the inscription. "Yet Poet and Laureate Eben Cooke is as untrue as the 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 12Q ] 

other," he reflected, "for while I hope to be a credit to my post, yet surely 
the post is no liability to me. Twere fitter the thing were done sidewise 
down the credit line, to signify the mutual benefit of title and man." But 
before he tore out the second sheet it occurred to him that "credit" was 
meaningless except as credit to somebody and yet anything he entered to 
receive it became a liability. For a moment he was frantic. 

"Stay!" he commanded himself, perspiring. "The fault is not in the 
nature of the world, but in Bragg's categories. I'll merely paste my commis- 
sion over the whole title page." 

He called for glue, but when he searched his pockets for the commission 
from Lord Baltimore, he found it not in any of them. 

"A'gad! Tis in the coat I wore last night at Locket's, that Bertrand hath 
packed away for me!" 

He went searching about the posthouse for his man, without success. But 
in the street outside, where the carriage was being made ready, he was 
astonished to find no other person than his sister Anna. 

"Marry!" he cried, and hurried to embrace her. "People vanish and ap- 
pear to me of late as in a Drury Lane comedy! How is it thou'rt in London?" 

"To see thee off to Plymouth," Anna said. Her voice was no longer girlish, 
but had a hard, flat tone to it, and one would have put her age closer to 
thirty-five than twenty-eight years. "Father forbade it but would not come 
himself, and so I stole away and be damned to him." She stepped back 
and examined her brother. "Ah faith, thou'rt grown thinner, Eben! I've 
heard 'twere wise to fatten up for an ocean passage." 

"I had but a week to fatten," Ebenezer reminded her. During his sojourn 
at Paggen's he had seen Anna not more than once a year, and he was greatly 
moved by the alteration in her appearance. 

She lowered her eyes, and he blushed. 

"I'm looking for that great cynical servant of mine," he said gaily, turning 
away. "You've not seen him, I suppose?" 

"You mean Bertrand? I sent him off myself not five minutes past, when 
he'd got all your baggage on the coach." 

"Ah, there's a pity. I had promised him a crown fort." 

"And I gave it him, from Father's money. He'll be back at St. Giles, I 
think, for Mrs. Twigg hath a ferment of the blood and is not given long 
to live." 

"Nay! Dear old Twigg! 'Tis a pity to lose her." 

They stood about awkwardly. Turning his head to avoid looking her in 



[ 130 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the eye, Ebenezer caught sight of the wigless fellow of the bookstore, Peter 
Saver, standing idly by the corner. 

"Did Bertrand tell you aught of my preferment?" he asked cheerfully. 

"Aye, he spoke oft. I'm proud." Anna's manner was distracted. "Eben 
" She grasped his arm. ' Was't true, what that letter said?" Great con- 
cern was evident in her face. 

Ebenezer laughed, somewhat nettled at Anna's lack of interest in his 
laureateship. " 'Twas true I'd got nowhere at Peter Paggen's, in all those 
years. And 'twas true a woman was in my chamber." 

"And did you deceive her?" his sister asked anxiously. 

"I did," Ebenezer said. Anna turned away and caught her breath. 

"Stay!" he cried. " Twas not at all in the way you think. I deceived her 
inasmuch as she was a whore that came to me to be employed for five 
guineas; but I took a great love for her and would neither lay nor pay her 
on those terms." 

Anna wiped her eyes and looked at him. "Is't true?" 

"Aye," Ebenezer laughed. "Haply you'll judge me not a man for't, Anna, 
but I swear I am as much a virgin now as the day we were born. What, 
thou'rt weeping again!" 

"But not for sorrow," Anna said, embracing him. "Do you know, 
Brother, I had come to think since you went to Magdalene College we no 
longer knew each other but it may be I was wrong." 

Ebenezer was moved by this statement, but a trifle embarrassed when 
Anna squeezed him more tightly before releasing him, Passersby, including 
Peter Sayer on the corner, turned their heads to look at them: doubtless 
they looked like parting lovers. Yet he was ashamed at being embarrassed. 
He moved closer to the coach, to prevent too gross a misunderstanding, 
and took his sister's hand, at least partly to forestall further embraces. 

"Do you ever think of the past?" Anna asked. 

"Aye." 

"What wondrous times we had! Do you remember how we used to talk 
for hours after Mrs. Twigg had turned out the lamp?" Tears sprang again 
to her eyes. "I'faith, I miss you, Ebenl" 

Ebenezer patted her hand. 

"And I thee," he said, sincerely but uncomfortably. I remember one 
day when we were thirteen, you were ill in bed with a fever, and so 
Henry and I went alone to tour Westminster Abbey. Twas my first whole 
day apart from you, and by dinnertime I missed you so sorely I begged 
Henry to take me home. But we went instead to St James's Park, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 131 ] 

and after supper to Dukes Theater in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and 'twas far 
past midnight ere we reached home. I felt ten years older for the day's 
adventure and could not see for the life of me how I'd e'er be able to tell 
you the whole oft. I'd had my first meal away from home, been to my first 
theater, and tasted my first brandy. We talked of nothing else for weeks 
but that day, and still I'd remember trifles I'd forgot to tell you. 'Twould 
give me pain to think of them, and at length I came to regret ever having 
gone and told Henry so, for't seemed to me you'd ne'er catch up after 
that day." 

"I recall it as if 'twere but last week," Anna said. "How many times 
I've wondered whether you'd forgot it." She sighed. "And I never did catch 
up! Query as I might, there was no getting the whole story. The awful 
truth oft was, I'd not been there to see!" 

Ebenezer interrupted her with a laugh. "Marry, e'en now I recall some- 
thing of it I forgot to tell you! After supper at some Pall Mall tavern on 
that day, I waited a half hour alone at the table while Henry went upstairs 

for one reason or another " He stopped and blushed scarlet, suddenly 

realizing, after fifteen years, what in all probability Henry Burlingame had 
gone upstairs for. Anna, however, to his relief, showed no sign of under- 
standing. 

"The wine had gone to my head, and everyone looked odd to me, none 
less than myself. 'Twas then I composed my first poem, in my head. A little 
quatrain. Nay, I must confess 'twas no slip of memory: I kept it secret, 
Heav'n knows why. I can e'en recite it now: 

Figures, so strange, no GOD design' d 
To be a Part of Human-kind: 
"But wanton Nature . . . 

La, I forget the rest. 'Sheart," he said, resolving happily to record the little 
verse in his notebook as soon as he boarded the carriage, "and since then 
what years we've spent apart! What crises and adventures we each have 
had, that the other knows naught of! 'Tis a pity all the same you had a fever 
that day!" 

Anna shook her head. "I had a secret too, Eben, that Mrs. Twigg knew, 
and Henry guessed, but never you nor Father. 'Twas no fever I was bedded 
with, but my first monthly troubles! I'd changed from child to woman that 
morning, and had the cramp oft as many women do." 

Ebenezer pressed her hand, uncertain what to say. It was time to board 
the coach: footmen and driver were attending last-minute details. 



[ 132 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Marry, 'twill be a long time ere I see you again," he said "Belike 
you'll be a stout matron with half-a-dozen children!*' 

"Nay, not I," Anna said. " Twill be Mrs. Twigg's lot for me, when she 
dies: an old maid housekeeper/* 

Ebenezer scoffed. "Thou'rt a catch for the best of men! Could I find 
your equal I'd be neither virgin nor bachelor for long/' He kissed her good- 
bye, forwarded his respects to his father, and made to board the carriage, 

"Stay!" Anna said impulsively. 

Ebenezer hesitated, uncertain of her meaning. Anna slipped from her 
finger a silver seal ring, well known to the poet because it was their only 
memento of their mother, whom they had never seen; Andrew had bought 
it during his brief courtship and had presented it to Anna some years past. 
Equally spaced around the seal were the letters A N N E B, for Anne Bow- 
yer, his fiancee, and in the center, overlapped and joined by a single cross- 
bar, was a brace of beflourished A's signifying the connection of Anne and 
Andrew. The complete seal looked like this: 




"Prithee take this ring," Anna entreated, and looked at it musingly. M Tis 
'tis my wont to alter its significance somewhat ... but no matter, Here, 
let me put it on you." She caught up his left hand and slipped the ring onto 
his little finger. "Pledge me . . ." she began, but did not finish. 

Ebenezer laughed, and to terminate the uncomfortable situation pledged 
that inasmuch as her share of Maiden was a large part of he? dowry, he 
would make it flourish. 

It was time to leave. He kissed her again and boarded the carriage, taking 
the seat from which he could wave to her. At the last minute the wigless 
fellow, Peter Sayer, boarded the coach and took the opposite scat. A foot- 
man closed the door and sprang up to his post apparently there were to 
be no other passengers. The driver whipped up the hones. Ebencxcr waved 
to the forlorn figure of his twin at the posthousc door, and the carriage 
pulled away. 

"Tis no light matter, to leave a woman ye love," Sayer ofeitd. "Is't 

thy wife, perhaps, or a sweetheart?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 1J3 ] 

"Neither," sighed Ebenezer. " Tis my twin sister, that I shan't see again 
till Heav'n knows when." He turned to face his companion. "Thou'rt my 
savior from Ben Bragg's, I believe Mr. Sayer?" 

Sayer's face showed some alarm. ''Ah, ye know me?" 

"Only by name, from Ben Bragg." He extended his hand. "I am Ebene- 
zer Cooke, bound for Maryland/' 

Sayer shook hands warily. 

"Is Plymouth your home, Mr. Sayer?" 

The man searched Ebenezer's face. "Do ye really not know Colonel 
Peter Sayer?" he asked. 

"Why, no." Ebenezer smiled uncertainly. "I'm honored by your com- 
pany, sir." 

"Of Talbot County in Maryland?" 

"Maryland! I'faith, what an odd chance!" 

"Not so odd," Sayer said, "since the Smoker's Fleet sails on the first. 
Anyone bound for Plymouth these days is likely bound for the plantations." 

"Well, 'twill be a pleasant journey. Is Talbot County near to Dorchester?" 

"Really, sir, thou'rt twitting me!" Sayer cried, 

"Nay, I swear't; I know naught of Maryland. 'Tis my first visit since the 
age of four." 

Sayer still looked skeptical. "My dear fellow, you and I are neighbors, 
with only the Great Choptank between us." 

"Marry, what a wondrous small world! You must pay me a call sometime, 
sir: I'll be managing our place on Cooke's Point." 

"And writing a deal of verse, did I hear Mr. Bragg aright." 

Ebenezer blushed* "Aye, I mean to turn a line or two if I can." 

"Nay, put by your modesty, Master Laureatel Bragg told me of the honor 
Lord Baltimore did ye." 

"Ah well, as for that, 'tis likely he got it wrong. My commission is to write 
a panegyric on Maryland, but I'll not be laureate in fact till the day Balti- 
more hath the Province for his own again." 

"Which day/' Sayer said, "you and your Jacobite friends yearn for, I 
presume?" 

"Stay, now!" Ebenezer said, alarmed. "I am as loyal as you." 

Sayer smiled for an instant but said in a serious tone, "Yet ye wish King 
William to lose his province to a Papist?" 

"I am a poet/' Ebenezer declared, almost adding and a virgin from habit; 
4t l know naught of Jacobites and Papists, and care less." 



[ 134] TH* SOT-WEED FACTO* 

"Nor know ye aught of Maryland it seems," Sayer added* "How well do 
ye know your patron?" 

"Not at all, save that he is a great and generous man. I've conversed 
with him but once, but the history of his province persuades me he was 
done a pitiful injustice. Ffaith, the scoundrels that have fleeced and slan- 
dered him! I am confident King William knows not the whole truth/* 

"But you do?" 

"I don't say that. Still and all, a villain is a villain! This fellow Clatbome, 
that I heard of, and Ingle, and John Coode^ that led the latest insurrec- 
tion " 

"Did he not strike a great blow for the faith, against the Papists?" Sayer 
demanded. 

Ebenezer began to grow uncomfortable, "I know not where your 
sympathies lie, Colonel Sayer; belike thou'rt a colonel in Coode's militia 
and will clap me in prison the day we step ashore in Maryland " 

"Then were't not the part of prudence to watch thy speech? Mind, 1 
don't say I am a friend of Coode's, but for all ye know I may be," 

"Aye, 'twere indeed the part of prudence," Ebeneser said, a trifle fright- 
ened. "You may say 'tis not always prudent to be just, and I 'tis not always 
just to be prudent. I am no Roman Catholic, sir f nor antipapist either, and 
I wonder whether 'tis a matter 'twist Protestants and Papists in Maryland 
or 'twixt rascals and men of character, whatever their faith." 

"Such a speech could get thee jailed there," Sayer smiled. 

"Then 'tis proof of their injustice," Ebenezer declared, not a little 
anxiously, "for Tin not on either side. Lord Baltimore strikes me as a man 
of character, and there's an end on't It might be I'm mistaken," 

Sayer laughed* "Nay, thou'rt not mistaken. I was but trying your 
loyalty." 

'To whom, prithee? And what is your conclusion?** 

"Thou'rt a Baltimore man/' 

"Do I go to prison for't?" 

"That may be," Sayer smiled, "but not at my hands* I am this vety mo- 
ment under arrest in Maryland for seditious speech against Coode and have 
been since last June." 

"Nay!" 

"Aye, along with Charles Carroll, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Edward 
Randolph, and half a dozen other fine fellows that spoke against the black- 
guard. I am no Papist either, but Charles Calvert is an old and dear friend 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 135 ] 

of mine. May the day I fear to speak up against such poltroons be the last 
day of my life!" 

Ebenezer hesitated. "How am I to know 'tis not now thou'rt trying me, 
and not before?" 

"Ye can never know/' Sayer replied, "especially in Maryland, where 
friends may change their colors like tree frogs. Why,, do ye know, the bar- 
rister Bob Goldsborough of Talbot, my friend and neighbor for years, 
deposed against me to Governor Copley? The last man I'd have thought a 
turncoat!" 

Ebenezer shook his head. "A man mil sell his heart to save his neck. The 
picture looks drear enough, f faith!" 

"Yet there's this to say for't," Sayer said, "that it makes the choice a clean 
one: ye must hold your tongue with all save your conscience or else speak 
your mind and take the consequences discretion goes out the window, 
and so doth compromise." 

"Is this the Voice of Reason speaking?" Ebenezer asked, 

"Nay, 'tis the Voice of Action. Compromise serves well enough when 
neither extreme will get ye what ye want: but there are things men must 
not want. What comfort is a whole skin, pray, when the soul is wounded 
unto death? 'Twas I wrote Baltimore his first full account of Coode's 
rebellion, and rather than live under his false Associators I left my house 
and lands and came to England." 

"How is it thou'rt returning? Will you not be clapped in irons?" 

"That may be," Sayer said. "Howbeit, I think not. Copley's dead since 
September, and Baltimore himself had a hand in commissioning Francis 
Nicholson to replace him. D'ye know Nicholson?" 

Ebenezer admitted that he did not. 

"Well, he hath his faults chiefly a great temper and a passion for 
authority but his ear's been bent the right way, and he'll have small use 
for Coode's sort. Ere he got this post he was with Edmund Andros in New 
England, and 'twas Leisler's rebellion in New York that ran him out the 
very model of Coode's rebellion in Maryland. Nay, I fear no harm from 
Nicholson." 

"Nonetheless, 'tis a bold resolve," Ebenezer ventured. 

Sayer shrugged. "Life is short; there's time for naught but bold resolves." 

Ebenezer started and looked sharply at his companion. 

"What is't?" 

"Nothing," Ebenezer said. "Only a dear friend of mine was wont to tell 
me that, I've lost track of him these six or seven years." 



[ 136 ] TOE SOT-WBED FACTOR 

"Belike he made some bold resolve himself/' Sayer suggested, "though 
'tis easier to recommend than do. Did ye heed his counsel?" 

Ebenezer nodded. "Hence both my voyage and my laureateship,** he 
said, and since they had a long ride before them he told his traveling- 
companion the story of his failure at Cambridge, his brief sojourn in Lon- 
don with Burlingame and his long one with Peter Paggen, the wager in 
the winehouse, and his audience with Lord Baltimore, The motion of the 
carriage must have loosened his tongue, for he went into considerable detail. 
When he concluded with his solution to the problem of choosing a note- 
book and showed him Bragg's ledger, Sayer laughed so hard he had to hold 
his sides. 

"Oh! Ha!" he cried- "TJurf for your golden mtanl Oh, 'sbodflcins! 
Thou'rt a credit to your tutor, I swear!** 

" Twas my first act as Laureate/' Ebeneser smiled, "I saw it as a kind 
of crisis/' 

"Marry, and managed it wondrous well! So here ye sit: virgin and poet! 
Think ye the 'twain will dwell 'neath the same roof and act quarrel with 
each other day and night?" 

"On the contrary, they live not only in harmony but in mutual 
inspiration/' 

"But what on earth hath a virgin to sing of? What have ye in your ledger 
there?" 

"Naught save my name/* Ebenezer admitted. "I had minded to paste 
my commission there, that Baltimore drafted, but it got packed in my trunk, 
Yet I've two poems to copy in it from memory, when I can. The one I 
spoke of already, that I wrote the night of the wager; 'tis on the subject of 
my innocence." 

At his companion's request Ebenezer recited the poem, 

"Very good," Sayer said when it was done* "Methinks it puts your notion 
aptly enough, though I'm no critic. Yet 'tis a mystery to me, what ye'fl 
sing of save your innocence. Prithee recite me the other piece/* 

"Nay, 'tis but a silly quatrain I wrote as a lad the first I ever rhymed 
And I've but three lines oft in my memory/" 

"Ah, a pity. The Laureate's first song: 'twould fetch a price someday, Til 
wager, when thou'rt famous the world o'er. Might ye heat me to the three 
ye have?" 

Ebenezer hesitated, "Thou'rt not baiting me?** 

"Nay!" Sayer assured him. " Tis a mere natural curiosity, is't not, to 
wonder how flew the mighty eagle as a fledgling? Do we not admire old 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Plutarch's tales of young Alcibiades flinging himself before the carter, or 
Demosthenes shaving half his head, or Caesar taunting the Cilician 
pirates? And would ye not yourself delight in hearing a childish line of 
Shakespeare's, or mighty Homer's?" 

"I would, right enough," Ebenezer admitted. "But will ye not judge the 
man by the child? Tis the present poem alone, methinks, that matters, not 
its origins,, and it must stand or fall on's own merits, apart from maker and 
age." 

"No doubt, no doubt," Sayer said, waving his hand indifferently, "though 
this word merit's total mystery to me, What I spoke of was interest, and 
whether 'tis good or bad in itself, certain your Hymn to Innocence is of 
greater interest to one who knows the history of its author than to one who 
knows not a bean of the circumstances that gave it birth." 

"Your argument hath its merits," Ebenezer allowed, not a little im- 
pressed to hear such nice reasoning from a tobacco-planter. 

Sayer laughed. "A fart for thy meritl My argument hath its interest, 
peradventure, to one who knows the arguer, and the history of such debates 
since Plato's time." 

"Yet surely the Hymn hath some certain degree of merit, and hath nor 
more nor less whether he that reads it be a Cambridge don or silly footboy 
or for that matter, whether 'tis read or not." 

"Belike it doth," Sayer said with a shrug. " Tis very like the schoolmen's 
question, whether a falling tree on a desert isle makes a sound or no, inas- 
much as no ear hears it. I've no opinion on't myself, though I'll own the 
quarrel hath some interest: 'tis an ancient one, with many a mighty 
implication to't." 

"This interest is the base of thy vocabulary/' Ebenezer remarked, "as 
merit seems to be of mine." 

"It at least permits of conversation," Sayer smiled. "Prithee, which gleans 
more pleasure from thy Hymn? The footboy who knows not Priam from 
Good King Wenceslas, or the don who calls the ancients by their nick- 
names? The salvage Indian that ne'er heard tell of chastity, or the Christian 
man who's learned to couple innocence with unpopped maidenheads?" 

"Marryl" Ebenezer exclaimed. "Your case hath weight, my friend, but 
I confess it repels me to own the muse sings clearest to professors! 'Twas 
not of them I thought when I wrote the piece." 

"Nay, ye mistake me," Sayer said. " 'Tis no mere matter of schooling, 
though none's the worse for a little education. Human experience is what 
I mean: knowledge of the world, both as stored in books and learnt from 



[ 138 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the hard text of life. Your poem's a spring of water. Master Laureate 
'sheart, for that matter everything we meet is a spring, is't not? That 
the bigger the cup we bring to't, the more we fetch away, and the more 
springs we drink from, the bigger grows our cup. If 1 oppose your notion 
of 'merit in itself/ 'tis that such thinking robs the bank of human experi- 
ence, wherein I have a considerable deposit. I will not drink with any man 
who'd have me throw away my cup. In short, sir, though I am neither poet 
nor critic, nor e'en a common Artium Bttccalaureus, but only a simple sot- 
weed planter that hath read a book or two in's time and seen a bit o* the 
wide world, yet I'm confident your poem means more to me than to you.** 

"What! That are neither virgin nor poet?" 

Sayer nodded. "As for the first, I have been one in my time and look on't 
now from the vantage-point of experience, which ye do not. For the second, 
'tis but a different view ye get as author. Nor am I the dullest of readers: I 
quite appreciate the wordplays in your first quatiaia, for instance*" 

"Wordplays? What wordplays?" 

"Why, chaste Penelope, for one,'* Sayer said- "What better pun for a 
wife plagued twenty years by suitors? Twas a clever choice!" 

"Thank you," Ebenezer murmured, 

"And Andromache's bouncing boy," Sayer went on, "that was pitched 
from the walls of Ilium " 

"Nay, 'tis grotesque!" Ebenezer protested. "I meant no such thingl** 

"Not so grotesque, It hath the salt of Shakespeare," 
^ "Do you think so?" Ebenezer xeconsidercd the phrase in his mind. 
"Haply it doth at that Nonetheless you read more out than I put in/* 

" 'Tis but to admit/* Sayer said, "I read mom out than you read out, 
which was my claim. Your poem means more to me/* 

"I'faith, I've not the means to refute you!" Ebenezer declared. "If 
thou'rt a true sample of my fellow planters, sir, then Maryland must be the 
muse's playground, and a paradise for poets! Thou'rt indeed the very voice 
and breath of Reason, and I'm honored to be your neighbor. My cup 
runneth over." 

Sayer smiled. "Belike it wants enlarging?" 

"Tis larger now than when I left London, Thou'rt no mean teacher,** 

"For fee, then, if I'm thy tutor, ye may pay me out in verse, * Sayer 
replied. "The three lines that occasioned our debate." 

"As you wish," Ebenezer laughed, "though Heav'n only knows what 
you'll find in 'em! Twas once in a Pall Mall tavern, after my firat glass of 
Malaga, I composed them, when all the world looked queer and alien/" He 
cleared his throat: 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Figures, so strange, no GOD design' d 
To be a Part of Human-kind: 
But wanton Nature. . . . 

In truth, 'tis but two and a half; I know not whither it went from there, but 
the message of the whole was simply that we folk were too absurd to do 
credit to a Sublime Intelligence. No puns or wordplays, that I know of." 

" Tis a passing cynical opinion for a boy/' Sayer said. 

"Twas just the way I saw things in my cups. Marry, that last line 
teases my memory!" 

Sayer stroked his beard and squinted out the window. A dusty country 
lad of twelve or thirteen years, wandering idly down the road, stepped aside 
and waved at them as they passed. 

"Figures, so strange, no GOD designed 
To be a Part of Human-kind;' 

Sayer recited, and turned to smile mischievously at Ebenezer: 

"Butm 
Mould 

Do I have't right, Eben?" 



"But wanton Nature, void of Rest, 
Moulded the brittle Clay in Jest. 



3: THE LAUREATE LEARNS THE TRUE IDENTITY OF 
COLONEL PETER SAYER 



"NAY, I'GOD!" EBENEZER BLINKED, AND SHOOK HIS HEAD, AND CRANED 
forward as if seeking a message on his companion's face. 
"Yes, 'tis I. Shame on you, that you failed to see't, or Anna either." 
"But 'sheart, Henry, thou'rt so altered I've still to see't! Wigless, 

bearded " 

"A man changes in seven years," Burlingame smiled. "I'm forty now, 
Eben." 

Ebenezer laughed distractedly and kept' shaking his head. "E'en the eyes!" 
he said. "And thy way of speaking! Thy voice itself is different, and thy 
manner! Are you Sayer feigning Burlingame, or Burlingame disguised as 
Sayer?" 

" 'Tis no disguise, as any that know the real Sayer can testify." 
"Yet I knew the real Henry Burlingame," Ebenezer said, "and were't 



[ 140] THE SOT-WEED PACTOfc 

not that you knew my quatrain I could not say thou'rt he! I told the poem 
to none save Henry, and that but once, fifteen years past. 

"As I was fetching thee home from St. James's Park," Henry added 
"Twas past midnight, and the Malaga had oiled thy tongue. Yet you were 
asleep ere we reached St Giles, with your head on my shoulder, were you 
not?" 

"Marry, so I was! I had forgot." Ebenezer reached across the carriage and 
gripped Burlingame's ami. "Ah God, to think I've found you. Henry! I'd 
given you up for lost!" 

"Then you do believe 'tis I?" 

"Forgive me my doubt; I've ne'er known a man to change so, nor had ! 
thought it possible/' 

Burlingame raised a tutorial finger. 'The world can alter a man entirely, 
Eben, or he can alter himself, down to his very essence. Did you not by 
your own testimony resolve, not that you wti*, but that you'd be virgin and 
poet from that moment hence? Nay, a man must alter willy-nilly in's Sight 
to the grave, he is a river running seawards, that is ne'er the same from 
hour to hour. What is there in the Maryland Laureate of the boy I fetched 
from Magdalene College?" 

"The less the better!" Ebenezer replied. "Yet I am still Eben Cooke, 
though haply not the same Eben Cooke, as the Thames is Thames however 
swift she flows/' 

"Is't not the name alone remains? And was't Tfatmt* from the day of 
creation?" 

"Many, Henry, you were ever one for posing riddles! Is't the form, then, 
makes the man, as the banks make the river, whate'er the name and con- 
tent? Nay, I see already the objection, that form is not eternal. The man 
grows stout or hunchbacked with the years, and running water cub and 
shapes the banks." 

Burlingpme nodded. " Tis but a change too slow for men to mark, save 
in retrospect The crabbed old man recalls his spring, and records tell- 
er rocks to him who knows their language where the river tan of old, 
that now runs such-a-way, 'Tis but a grossness of perception, is't not, 
that lets us speak of Thames and Tigris, or even Franc* and Engfand, 
but especially me and thee, as though what went by those names or others 
in time past hath some connection with the present object? I'faith, for 
that matter how is't we speak of objects if not that our coarse vision fails 
to note their change? The world's indeed a flux, as Heraclitus declared; 
the very universe is naught but change and motion." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR I 141 J 

Ebenezer had attended this discourse with a troubled air, but now he 
brightened. "Have you not in staring o'er the Precipice missed the Path?" 
he asked. 

"I do not grasp your figure." 

"How is't you convinced me thou'rt Henry Burlingame, when name and 
form alike were changed? How is't we know of changes too nice for our 
eyes to see?" He laughed, pleased at his acuity. "Nay, this very flux and 
change you make so much of: how can we speak of it at all, be it ne'er so 
swift or slow, were't not that we remember how things were before? Thy 
memory served as thy credentials, did it not? Tis the house of Identity, 
the Soul's dwelling place! Thy memory, my memory, the memory of the 
race: 'tis the constant from which we measure change; the sun. Without it, 
all were Chaos right enough," 

"In sum, then, thou'rt thy memory?" 

"Aye," Ebenezer agreed. "Or better, I know not what I am, but I know 
that I am, and have been, because of memory. Tis the thread that runs 
through all the beads to make a necklace; or like Ariadne's thread, that 
she gave to thankless Theseus, it marks my path through the labyrinth of 
Life, connects me with my starting place." 

Burlingame smiled, and Ebenezer observed that his teeth, which had 
used to be white, were yellow and carious at least two were missing alto- 
gether. 

"You make a great thing of this memory, Eben." 

"I'll own I'd not reflected ere now on its importance. Tis food for a 
sonnet, or two, don't you think?" 

Burlingame only shrugged. 

"Come, Henry; sure thou'rt not piqued that I have skirted thy pit!" 

"Would God you had/' Burlingame said. "But I fear me thou'rt seduced 
by metaphors, as was Descartes of old." 

"How is that, pray? Can you refute me?" 

"What more refutation need I make of this god Memory 9 than that 
thou'rt forgetting something?" 

"What" Ebenezer stopped and blushed as he realized the implication 
of what his friend had said. 

"You did not recall sleeping on my shoulder on the way home from 
Pall Mall/' Burlingame reminded him. "This demonstrates the first weak- 
ness of your soul-saving thread, which is, that it hath breaks in it. There 
are three others/' 

"Ah, many/' Ebenezer sighed. "If that is so, I fear for my argument." 



[ 142 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"You said 'twas Malaga we drank that night." 

"Aye, I've a clear memory oft" 

"And I that 'twas Madeira." 

Ebenezer laughed, "As for that, I'd trust my memory over yours, inas- 
much as 'twas my first wine, and I'd not likely forget the name oft" 

"True enough/' Burlingame agreed, "if you got it aright in the first place. 
But I too marked it well as your first glass and well knew Malaga from 
Madeira, whereas to you the names were new and meaningless* and thus 
lightly confused." 

"That may be, but I am certain 'twas Malaga nonetheless." 

"No matter," Burlingame declared. "The fact of the matter is, where 
memories disagree there's oft no means to settle the dispute, and that's 
the second weakness. The third is, that in large measure we recall whatever 
we wish, and forget the rest. 'Twas not until you summoned up this quat- 
rain, for example, that I recalled having slipped upstairs to a whore the 
while you were composing it. My shame at leaving you thus alone, for one 
thing, forced it soon out of mind." 

"Ffaith, my polestar leads me on the rocks!" Ebenesser lamented. "What 
is the fourth objection to't?" 

"That e'en those things it holds, it tends to color," Burlingame replied, 
Tis as if Theseus at every turn rolled up the thread and laid it out again 
in a prettier pattern," 

"I fear me thy objections are fatal," Ebenezer said. 'They are like the 
four black crows that ate up Gretel's peas, wherewith she'd marked her 
trail into the forest." 

"Nay, these are but weaknesses, not mortal wounds," said Burlingame. 
"They don't obliterate the path but only obfuscate it, so that hy as we 
might we never can be certain of t" He smiled* "Howbeit, there is yet a 
fifth, that by's own self could do the job-" 

" 'Slife, you'd as well uncage the rascal and let us see him plainly." 

"My memory served as my credentials, as you told me," Burlingame said. 
"Blurred, imperfect as it is from careless use, and thine as well the twain 
agreed on points enough to satisfy you I am Burlingame, though 1 could 
not prove it any other way. But suppose the thread gets lost completely, 
as't sometimes doth. Suppose I'd had no tecolleetion of tny past at all?" 

"Then you'd have been Colonel Sayer for all of me," Ebenezer replied. 
"Or if haply you'd declared yourself my Henry, but knew no more, I'd 
ne'er have credited your tale. But 'tis a rare occurrence, is't not, this total 
loss of memory, and rarer yet where no other pjoof exists of one's identity?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 143 ] 

"No doubt But suppose again I looked like the man who fetched you to 
London, and spoke and dressed like him, and e'en was called Burlingame 
by Trent and Merriweather, and fat Ben Oliver. Moreover, suppose I had 
before witnesses signed the name as Burlingame was wont to sign it. 
Then suppose one day I swore^I was not Burlingame at all, nor knew aught 
of his whereabouts, but only a clever actor who had got the knack of 
aping signatures, and had passed myself as Heniy for a lark." 

'Thy suppositions dizzy me!'* Ebenezer cried. 

"However strong your convictions," Burlingame went on, "you'd ne'er 
have proof that I was he." 

"I must own that's true, though it pains me." 

"Now another case " 

"Keep thy case, I beg you!" Ebenezer said. "I am cased from head to 
toe already." 

"Nay, 'tis to the point. Suppose today I'd claimed to be Burlingame, 
for all my alteration, and composed a line to fit your quatrain nay, a 
whole life story which did not match your own recollection; and when 
you questioned it, suppose I'd challenged your own identity, and made 
you out to be the clever impostor. At best you'd have no proof, would 
you now?" 

"I grant I would not," Ebenezer admitted. "Save my own certainty. 
But it strikes me the burden of proof would rest with you, not me." 

"In that case, yes. But I said at best. If I had learned aught of your 
past, however, the discrepancies could be charged to your own poor posing, 
and if further I produced someone very like you in appearance, 'tis very 
possible the burden of proof would be on you. And if I brought a few of 
your friends in on the game, or even old Andrew and your sister, to dis- 
claim you, I'll wager even you would doubt your authenticity." 

"Mercy, mercy!" Ebenezer cried. "No more of these tenuous hypotheses, 
lest I lose my wits! I am satisfied thou'rt Henry; I swear to thee I am 
Ebenezer, and there's an end on't! Such casuistical speculations lead only 
to the Pit." 

"True enough," Burlingame said good-humoredly. "I wished only to es- 
tablish that all assertions of thee and me, e'en to oneself, are acts of faith, 
impossible to verify." 

"I grant it; I grant it. Tis established like the " He waved his hand 

uncertainly. "Marry, your discourse hath robbed me of similes: I know of 
naught immutable and sure!" 

" Tis the first step on the road to Heaven," Burlingame smiled. 



t 144 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"That may be," Ebenezer said, "or haply 'tis the road to Hell" 

Burlingame cocked his eyebrows. " Tis the same road, or good Dante 
is a liar. Thou'rt quite content that I am Burlingame?" 

"Quite, I swear't!" 

"And thou'rt Ebenezer?" 

"I never doubted it; and still thy pupil, 1 as this carriage ride hath 
shown." 

"Good. Another time I'll ask you what me and thee refer to, but not 



now. 



"No, ffaith, not now, for I've a thousand things to ask of you!** 
"And I to tell," Burlingame said. "But so fantastic a tale it is my first 
concern is for thy credulity, and thus I deemed necessary all this Sophistical 
discourse," 

Not long afterwards the carriage stopped at Aldeishot, for it was well 
past suppertime, and the travelers had not eaten. Burlingame, therefore^ 
as was his habit, postponed all further conversation on the subject while 
he and Ebenezer dined on cold capon and potatoes. Afterwards, having 
been informed by their driver that there would be a two-hour wait for the 
horses and driver which would take them on to Salisbury* Exeter, and Plym- 
outh, they took seats before the fire* at Burlingame^ suggestion, with their 
pipes and a quart of Bristol sherry* It had grown dark outside; a light rain 
began to fall. Ebenezer waited impatiently for his friend to begin, but 
Burlingame, jvhen his pipe was lighted and his glass filled, sighed a com- 
fortable sigh and asked merely, "How fares your father these days, Ebea?" 



4: THE LAUREATE HEARS THE TALE OF 
BURLINGAME'S LATE ADVENTURES 



"FATHER BE DAMNED!" EBENEZER CRIED. *i KNOW NOT WHETHER HE 
lives or dies, nor greatly care till I've heard your story!" 

"Yet you know who he is, alive or dead, do you not? And ia that respect, 
if not some others, who you are/' 

'Tray let us dismiss old Andrew for the nonce," Ebeneser pleaded, "as 
he hath dismissed me. Where have you been, and what done and seen? 
Wherefore the name Peter Sayer, and your wondrous alteatioas? Com- 
mence the tale, and a fig for old Andrew!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 145 ] 

"How dismiss him?" Burlingame asked. "'Twas he commenced my 
story, what time he dismissed me." 

"What? Is't that nonsense over Anna you refer to? How doth it bear 
upon your tale?" 

"What towering wrath!" Burlingame said. "What murtherous alarm! 
I'God, the hate he bore me I am awed by't even yetl" 

"I've ne'er excused him for it," Ebenezer said shortly. 

"Your privilege, as his son. But I, Eben, I excused him on the instant; 
forgave him nay, e'en admired him fort. Had he made to slay me ah, 
well, but no matter," 

Ebenezer shook his head. " 'Tis past my understanding. But say, must 
I give up hope of hearing your tale?" 

"Thou'rt hearing it," Burlingame declared. "Tis the pier whereon the 
entire history rests; the lute-work that ushers in the song." 

"So be't. But I fear me 'twill be a tadpole of a history, whose head is 
greater than his body. You forgave him, then?" 

"More, I loved him for't, and scurried off in shame." 

"Yet 'twas a false and vicious charge he charged you!" 

Burlingame shrugged. "As for that, 'twas not his justice awed me, but 
his great concern for his child." 

"A marvelous concern he bears us, right enough," Ebenezer said. "He 
will wreck us with his concern! Suppose he'd birched her bloody, as you 
told me once he threatened: would you not adore and worship such con- 
cern?" 

"I would kill him for't," Burlingame replied, "but love him none the less." 

"Marry, thou'rt come a wondrous way from London, where I left you! 
Why did you not applaud my resolution to go home with Anna, seeing 
'twas pure filial solicitude that prompted it?" 

"You mistake me," Burlingame said. "I'd oppose it still, and Anna's 
bending to his every humor. Were I his son I'd be disowned ere now for 
flying in the face of his concern; but what a priceless prize it is, Eben! 
What a wealthy man I'd be, to throw away such treasure! The fellow 
repines in bed for grief at losing you; he dictates the course of your life 
to make you worthy of your line! Who grieves for me, prithee, or cares 
a fig be I fop or philosopher? Who sets me goals to turn my back on, or 
values to thumb my nose at? In fine, sir, what business have I in the 
world, what place to flee from, what credentials to despise? Had I a home 
I'd likely leave it; a family alive or dead I'd likely scorn it, and wander a 
stranger in alien towns. But what a burden and despair to be a stranger 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

to the world at large, and have no link with history! Tis as if I'd sprung 
de novo like a maggot out of meat, or dropped from the sky. Had I the 
tongue of angels I ne'er could tell you what a loneliness it is!" 

"I cannot fathom it," Ebenezer declared. "Is this the man that stood in 
Thames Street praising Heav'n he knew naught of his forebears?" 

" Twas a desperate speech" Burlingame smiled--"like a pauper's dia- 
tribe on the sinfulness of wealth. When the twain of you had gone I felt 
my loneliness as ne'er before, and thought long of Captain Salmon and 
gentle Melissa that raised me. Do you recall that day in Cambridge when 
you asked me how I came to be called Henry Burlingame the Third?" 

"Aye, and you replied 'twas the name you'd bome from birth." 

"I spent some hours grousing in my chamber," Burlingame said, "and 
at length I came to see this pompous name of mine as the most precious 
thing I owned. Who bestowed it on me? Wherefore Burlingame Third, and 
not just Burlingame?" 

"'Sheart, I see your meaning!" Ebenezer said. "Tis your name that 
links you with your forebears; thou'rt not wholly ex nth&o after ail! Tis 
a kind of clue to the riddle!" 

Burlingame nodded. "And did I not profess to be a scholar?" He refilled 
his glass with Bristol sherry. "Then and there I made myself a vow," he 
said, "to learn the name and nature of my father, the circumstances of 
my birth, and haply the place and manner of his death; nor would I value 
any business higher, but ransack the very planet in my quest till I had 
found my answer or died a-searching. And search I have i'fauth! these 
seven years. Tis the one business of my life/' 

''Then marry, I must hear the tale oft, that I've waited for too long 
already. Drink off your sherry and commence^ nor will I stand for inter- 
ruption till the tale be done." 

"As you wish/' Burlingame said. He drank the wine and filled his pipe 
besides, and told the following story: 

"How should a man discover the history of his parentage when he knows 
not whence he came or how, or even whether the name he bears hath 
any authenticity? For think not I was blind to't, Eben, that my one hope 
might be a false one; what evidence had I 'twas not some jest or happen- 
stance, this name of mine, or perchance some other guardian's, that nursed 
me up from infancy till Captain Salmon chanced along? It wants but pluck 
to vow to build a bridge, yet pluck will never build it I cast about me for 
a first step, and betook myself at last to Bristol, where I thougjhtt perchance 
to find some that knew at least my Captain and recalled his orphan wand 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 147 ] 

and privily, 111 own, I prayed to meet some old and trusted friend of his, 
or kin, that might know the full story of my origin. Twas not unthinkable 
he might have told the tale, I reasoned, if not broadcast then at least to 
one or two, unless there was some mighty sin about it." 

Ebenezer frowned. "Such as what? The man you've pictured me ne'er 
could stoop to kidnaping." 

Burlingame pursed his lips and raised and let fall his hands. "He had no 
children, to my knowledge, and the yen for sons can drive a man and 
woman far. Moreover, 'twould be no great matter to achieve: Many's the 
anchor that's dropped at dusk and weighed ere the sun comes up. Yet 
'twas not kidnaping I mainly thought of, though I would not rule it out 
more likely, if he came by me improperly, 'twas that he'd got me on some 
mistress in a port of call." 

"Nay," said Ebenezer. "I have indeed read that the sailor is a great 
philanderer, even at times a bigamist, by reason of his occupation, but 
Captain Salmon, as I picture him, had neither the youth nor the temper for 
such folly, the less so for that he was no common sailor, but master of a 
vessel. Twere as unlike such a man to saddle himself with a bastard as 
'twould be for Solomon to prattle nonsense or a Jew to strike fair bargains." 

Burlingame smiled. "Which is but to say, 'tis not out of the question. 
Follow Horace if you will when making verse /fefez'Gs Ino, perftdus Ixion, 
and the rest but think not actual folk are e'er so simple. Many's the Jew 
hath lost his shirt, and saint that hath in private leaped his houseboy. A 
covetous man may be generous on occasion, and Even an emmet may seek 
revenge. Again, though 'twere unlike Captain Salmon to sow wild oats, 
'twere not at all unlike him, if his own plot would not bear, to seek a-pur- 
pose a field more fruitful. Melissa may even have pressed him to." 

"A wife incite her husband to be unfaithful?" 

"'Twere no breach of faith, methinks, in such a case. Howbeit, no 
matter: in the first place I thought it most likely he came by me in no 
such sinister fashion, but simply took him in an orphan babe as any man 
might who hath a Christian heart; in the second, I cared not a straw for 
the manner of my getting so I could but discover it and my getter." 

"And did you?" 

Burlingame shook his head. "I found three or four old people that had 
known Salmon and remembered his ungrateful charge: one told me, when 
I revealed my name^ 'twas grief at my loss killed the Captain, and grief 
o'er his killed Melissa. I yearn to credit that story, for fear my conscience 
might accuse me else of fleeing such an awful responsibility; yet there is 



[ 148 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

a temper wont to twist the past into a theater-piece, mistake the reasonable 
for the historical, and sit like Rhadamanthus in everlasting judgment. This 
man, I tell you reluctantly, was of that temper. In any case none knew 
aught of my origin save that Captain Salmon had fetched me home from 
somewhere, on his vessel. I asked then, who was the Captain's closet friend, 
and who Melissa's? And each of the men among them claimed to be the 
former, and each of the women the latter. Finally I asked whether any 
remembered who was the mate on Salmon's ship in those days; but Bristol 
is a busy port, where men change ships from voyage to voyage, and 'tis 
unlikely they'd have known were't but one year before instead of thirty. 
Yet as often happens, in asking someone else, I hit on the answer myself, 
or if not the answer at least a fresh hope: a man called Richard Hill had 
been first mate on all five voyages I had made with Captain Salmon, and 
'twas my impression, more from their manner with each other than from 
any plain statement, that he and the Captain were shipmates of some 
years' standing. 'Twas not impossible he'd been mate on that voyage ten 
years before, though 'twas a long chance; and if indeed he'd been, why, 
'twas certain he'd know more than I about the matter, for 'tis hard to keep 
such business from a first mate under any conditions, and perhaps unwise if 
he's a trusted friend to boot. Of course, for aught I knew, this Hill might 
be long dead, or finding him as hard a matter as finding my father " 

"I grant you, I grant you!" Ebenezer broke in. "Prithee trust me to 
appreciate your obstacles without enumeration, save such as advance the 
story, and tell me quickly whether you overcame them. Did you find this 
Hill fellow? And had he aught to tell you?" 

"You must attend the haw oft/' Burlingame said; "else thou'rt as much 
a Boeotian as he that reads the Iliad no farther than the invocation, where 
the end oft all is plainly told. As't happened, none of my informants re- 
called for certain this Richard Hill I spoke of, but two of them, who still 
were wont to stroll about the wharves, declared there was a Richard Hill 
in the tobacco fleet. Yet, though he sometimes called at Bristol, they told 
me he was no Bristolman, nor even an Englishman, but either a Marylander 
or a Virginian; nor was he a mate, but captain of his own vessel. 

"This I took as good news rather than bad. When I had satisfied myself 
that neither Captain Hill nor farther news of him was to be found in 
Bristol at that time, I hastened back to London," 

"Not to the plantations?" Ebenezer asked, feigning disappointment 
"Tis unlike you, Henry!" 

"Nay, I was ready enough to sail for America," Burlingame replied, *1>ut: 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 149 ] 

'Tzs -wiser to ask at the carriage-house than to chase off down the road. 
London is the very liver and lights of the sot-weed trade; it took but half 
a day there to learn that Captain Hill was in fact a Marylander, from 
Anne Arundel County, and master of the ship Hope, which lay at that 
very moment in the Thames with other 'vessels of the fleet, discharging 
her cargo. I fairly ran down to the wharf where she lay and with some 
difficulty (for I had no money) contrived an interview with Captain 
Hill. But I had no need to ask my great question, for immediately 
upon hearing my name he enquired whether I was Avery Salmon's boy, 
that had jumped ship in Liverpool. I declared I was, and when we had 
done shaking our heads at my youthful folly and singing the praises of 
Captain Salmon (who, however, he told me had died of tumors and not 
grief), told him the purpose of my visit and besought him to give me any 
information he migjht have on that head. 

" 'Why/ he declared, 'I was not Avery's mate in those days, Henry. I 
know what there is to know oft, and no more/ 

" 'And prithee what is that?' 

" 'Naught but what ye know already/ said he: 'that ye was fished like 
a jimmy-crab from the waves of the Chesapeake/ " 

"Stay!" Ebenezer cried. "I've ne'er heard you speak oft, Henry!" 

" 'Twas as new to me then as to you now/' Burlingame said. "I expressed 
your surprise tenfold and assaulted Captain Hill with questions. When at 
length I convinced him I was a perfect stranger to the matter,, he explained 
'twas in the early part of 1654 or *55> * the best of his memory, during 
a ran up the Chesapeake from Piscataway to Kent Island, Captain Salmon's 
vessel had come upon an empty canoe driven before the wind. The sailors 
guessed 'twas blown from some salvage Indian and would have taken no 
further note of it, save that on passing closer they heard strange cries issuing 
from it. Word was sent to Captain Salmon, who ordered the vessel hove to 
and sent a boat over to investigate." 

"Many, Henry!" Ebenezer said breathlessly. "Was't you?" 

"Aye, a lad of two or three months, stark naked and like to perish of 
the cold. My hands and feet were bound with rawhide, and on my 
skin, like a sailor's tattoo, was writ the name Henry Burlingame III, in 
small red letters. They fetched me aboard " 

"Wait, I pray you! I must assimilate these wonders,, that you drop as 
light as goose-dung! Naked and tattooed, i'faithl Is't still to be seen?" 

"Nay, 'tis long since faded." 

"But how came you to be there? Surely 'twas some villainy!" 



[150] THE SOX-WEED FACTOR 

"No man knows," Burlingame said. "The canoe and the thongs where- 
with I was bound bespoke salvagery, yet there's not a salvage in the country 
knows his letters, to my knowledge, and my skin and scalp were whole." 

"Agad!" Ebenezer cried. "What creature is't could bear such malice to 
a silly babe, that not content to do him to death, must do't in such a hard 
and lingering fashion?" 

" Tis a mystery to this day. In any case, Captain Salmon had me clapped 
under coverlets in his own cabin, where for ten days and nights I hung 
'twixt here and hereafter, and fed me on fresh goat's milk. At length my 
fever abated and my health returned; Captain Salmon took a fancy to me 
and resolved ere his ship returned to Bristol I would be his son. More than 
this my Captain Hill knew naught, and though 'twas volumes more than 
erst Fd known, yet so far from laying my curiosity, it but pricked him up 
the more, I offered then and there to join the Hope's crew for the voyage 
back to Maryland, where I meant to turn the very marshes inside out for 
clues." 

"Twas a desperate resolve, was't not?** Ebenezer smiled* "The more 
since you knew not whence the canoe had blown, or where the ship o'er- 
took it." 

"It was indeed," Burlingame agreed, "though a desperate resolve may 
sometimes meet success* In any case, 'twas that or give over my quest. I 
had a fortnight's time ere the Hope sailed, and like a proper scholar I ran- 
sacked the records of the Customs-house, My end this time was to search 
out all the Burlingames in Maryland, for once in the Province I meant 
to make my way to each, by fair means or foul, and dig for what I sought 
Who could say but that one among their number mi^ht have sired me?" 

"Well," said Ebenezer, "and did you find any?" 

Burlingame shook his head* 'To the best of my knowledge not a man 
or woman of that name lives now in the Province,, or hath ever rince its 
founding. Next I resolved to search the records of all the other provinces 
in like manner, working north and south in turn from Maryland. The 
task was rendered harder by the many changes in grants and charters over 
the years, and farther by the fear of civil war, which ever works a wondrous 
ruin to the custom clerk's faith in his fellow man. I started on Virginia, 
working back from the current year, but ere I'd got past Cromwell's time 
my fortnight was run, and off I sailed to Maryland/' Burlingame smiled 
and tapped ashes from his pipe, "Had the wind held bad another fortnight, 
Fd have found somewhat to fan my hopes enormously. As 'twas, I waited 
near two years to find it" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [151] 

was that? News of your father?" 

"Nay, Eben of that gentleman I know no more today than I knew then, 
nor of my mother or myself/' 

"Ah, 'twere better you'd not told me that," Ebenezer declared, clucking 
his tongue, "for it spoils the story. What man could pleasure in a quest, 
or the tale of one, that he knew ere he launched it was in vain?" 

"Would you have me forego the rest?" Burlingame asked. "The news 
was merely of my grandfather, or so I believe I've come to know some- 
what of that fellow, at least." 

"Ah, thou'rt teasing me, then!" 

Burlingame nodded and stood up. "I know no more of my father than 
before, but 'tis not to say I'm no nearer knowing. No indeed. Howbeit, 
the tale shall have to keep." 

"What! Thou'rt not affronted, Henry?" 

"Nay, nay," Burlingame replied. "But I hear our driver harnessing the 
team in the yard. Stretch your legs a bit, lad, and relieve thyself ere we 

go-" 

"But surely you'll take up the tale again?" Ebenezer pleaded. 

Burlingame shrugged, " 'Twere better you slept if you can. If not, why 
then 'tis good to have a tale to wait the dawn with." 

At that moment the new driver burst in, cursing the rain,, and told the 
travelers to make ready for departure. Accordingly they went outside, 
where a high March wind was whipping the light rain into spray. 



5: BURLINGAME'S TALE CONTINUED, TILL ITS TELLER 
FALLS ASLEEP 



ONCE SETTLED IN THE CARRIAGE FOR THE SECOND LEG OF THEIR JOURNEY, 

Ebenezer and Burlingame tried to sleep, but found the road too rough. 
Despite their weariness, a half hour of pitching and bouncing persuaded 
them the attempt was vain, and they gave it up. 

"Fie on it," Ebenezer sighed. "Time enough to rest in the grave, as 
Father says/* 

"True enough," Burlingame agreed, "though to put it off too long is 
but to get there the sooner." 

At Ebenezer's suggestion they filled and lit their pipes. Then the poet 



[ 152 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

declared, "As for me, I welcome the postponement. Were my bladder full 
of Lethean dew instead of Bristol sherry, I still could ne'er forget the tale 
you've told me, nor hope to sleep till I've heard it out" 

"Thou'rt not bored with it?" 

"Bored! Saving only the history of your travels with the gypsies, which 
you told me years ago in Cambridge, I ne'er have heard such marvels! 
Tis well I know thee a stranger to pervarication, else 'twere hard to credit 
such amazements." 

"Methinks then I had best leave off," Burlingame said, "for no man 
knows another's heart for certain, and what I've said thus far is but a tuning 
of the strings, as't were." 

"Prithee strike 'em, then, without delay, and trust me to believe you." 

'Very well. 'Tis not so deadly long a story, but I must own 'tis a passing 
tangled one, with much running hither ^ad thither and an army of names 
to bear in mind." 

"The grapes are no fewer on a tangled vin^ Ebenezer replied, and 
Burlingame without further prelude resumed his tale: 

"Twould have pleased Dick Hill well enough," he said, "to keep me 
in his crew, for a week aboard caused all my sailor's craft, which I'd not 
rehearsed for over fifteen years, to spring to mind. But once in Maryland 
I left his vessel and, not wishing to bind myself to one location by teach- 
ing, I took a post on Hill's plantation," 

"Was't not equally confining?" Ebenezer asked. 

"Not for long, I began by keeping his books for 'tis a rare planter there 
can do sums properly. Soon I so gained his confidence that he trusted me 
with the entire management of his sot-weed holdings on the Severn, de- 
claring that though 'twas too considerable a business to let go, yet he had 
small love for't, and had rather spend his time a-sailoring " 

"I'faith, then thou'rt a Maryland sot-weed planter before me! I must 
hear how you managed it." 

"Another time," Burlingame replied, "for here the story makes sail and 
weighs its anchor. Twas 1688, and the provinces were in as great a ferment 
as England over Papist and Protestant. In Maryland and New England 
trouble was particularly rife: Baltimore himself and most of the Maryland 
Council were Catholics, and both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor 
of New England Sir Edmund Andros and Francis Nicholson ww also 
known to be no enemies of King James. The leader of &e Maryland 
rebels was one John Goode -" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Aye, I had that name from Baltimore," Ebenezer said. "He is the false 
priest that snatched the government/' 

"An extraordinary fellow, Eben, I swear't! Haply you'll meet him, for 
he's still at large. His counterpart in New York was Jacob Leisler, who 
had designs on Nicholson. Now it happened that winter that Leisler came 
to Maryland for the purpose of conniving with Coode. Word had just 
reached us of King William's landing, and 'twas their design to strike to- 
gether, the one at St. Mary's, the other at New York. To be brief, Captain 
Hill got wind oft and sent me to New York in January, ere Leisler returned, 
to warn Nicholson." 

"Then Captain Hill is a Papist?" 

"No more than you or I," Burlingame replied. " Twas not a matter of 
faith, in Maryland. Old Coode is no more for William than for James: 
'tis government itself he loathes, and any kind of orderl Leisler's but a fop 
beside him." 

"May I never meet this Coode!" said Ebenezer. "Did you reach New 
York?" 

"Aye, and Nicholson swore like a cannoneer at the news I brought him. 
He himself had come to Andros in '86 as captain of an Irish Papist troop, 
and in New York he'd celebrated the birth of James's son; he knew well 
the rebels marked him for a Romanist and would lose no chance to turn 
him out. He tried in vain to keep the news suppressed, and inasmuch as 
Dick Hill had placed me at his service, he sent me on to Boston to warn 
Andros. I gained the confidence of both men, and at my own request 
spent the next few months as private messenger betwixt them my virtue 
being that I was not a member of their official family and hence could 
move with ease among the rebels. Nay, I will own I more than once took 
it upon myself to pass as one of their number, and thus was able on oc- 
casion to report their doings to the Governor." 

"But thou'rt fearless, Henry!" 

"Eh? Ah well, fearless or no, I did the cause of order small good. The 
rebels seized Andros that spring, as soon as they heard of William's progress, 
and clapped him in the Boston jail. In New York they spread a tale that 
Nicholson meant to fire the town, and on the strength of it Leisler mustered 
force enough to take the garrison." 

"What of Nicholson? Did he escape?" 

"Aye," said Burlingame. "In June he fled by ship for London, and for 
all Leisler called him a privateer, he got back safely." 



[ 154] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Safely!" Ebenezer cried. "Was't not a case of frying pan to fire, to See 
from Leisler into William's arms?" 

Burlingame laughed. "Nay, Eben, Old Nick is not so simple a fool as 
that,, as you shall see betimes." 

"Well, what of thee, Henry? Did you make your way back to Maryland?" 

"Nay again, for that were a leap to the fire indeed! Twas in July that 
Coode made his play, and by August had the Governor's Council besieged 
in the Mattapany blockhouse. Nay, I stayed behind in New England first 
in New York and then, when Nicholson was safely out, in Boston. My 
design was to get Sir Edmund Andros out of Castle Island prison.*' 

"B'm'faith!" said Ebenezer, " Tis a tale out of Esquemeling!" 

"In more ways than .one," Burlingame replied with a smile* "There lay 
in Boston harbor an English frigate, the Ro$#, designed to guard the local 
craft from pirates. John George, her captain, was friend enough of Andros 
that the rebels held him hostage, lest he bombard the town for the 
Governor's release. Twas my wish to do exactly that, if need be, and spirit 
him off to France aboard the Ro$0." 

"However did you manage it?" 

"I didn't, though 'twas no fault of my plan, I found nie a friend of 
Captain George's named Thomas Pound, a pilot and mapmaker, who was 
ready for a price to show his loyalty to Andros. The Governor escaped, 
and five days later we slipped out of the harbor into Massachusetts Bay, 
put on the guise of pirates, and commenced to harass the fishing fleet/' 

"'Sbodyl" 

"Twas our intention so to nettle them that at last they'd send out 
Captain George in the Row frigate to reduce us; then we'd sail to Rhode 
Island, pick up Andros, and set our course for France. But ere we'd brought 
them to such straits, word reached us Andros was already recaptured and 
on his way to England." 

"In any case," Ebenezer said, "'twas a worthy attempt/' 

"Belike it was, to start with," Burlingame replied. "But as't turned out, 
when Tom Pound learned 'twas all for naught, he was in a pickle: he 
could not sail into Boston harbor lest he be hanged for a pirate; nor could 
he cross to France for lack of provision. The upshot of it was, we turned 
to doing in earnest what before we'd feigned/' 

"Nay, f God!" 

"Aye and we did; turned pirate, and prowled the northern coast for prey/' 

"But marry, Henry you were with them?" 

" Twas that or be thrown to the fishes, Eben. Aye, I fought along with 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ X 55 ] 

the rest nor can I say in truth I loathed it, though I felt it wrong. There 
is a charm in outlawry that the good man little dreams of. ... Tis a 
liquor " 

"I pray you were not long drunk with it!" Ebenezer said. "It seems a 
perilous brew." 

"Tis no pap for sucklings, I must own. For full two months Pound 
robbed and plundered, though he seldom got aught for his pain save salt 
pork and fresh water. In October he was set oti by a Boston sloop off 
Martha's Vineyard, and every soul aboard killed or wounded. I, thank 
Heav'n, had made my escape some weeks before, in Virginia, and inasmuch 
as I'd assumed another name throughout my stay in New England, I little 
feared detection. I made the best oft back to Maryland and rejoined Dick 
Hill in Anne Arundel, who'd long since given me up for dead. I was the 
more anxious to leave Pound for that John Coode knew Captain Hill for 
an enemy and was sure to work him some injury ere long. Moreover, I had 
another reason, more selfish, it may be, but no less pressing: I had word 
that there were Burlingames in Virginia!" 

"Nay, 'tis marvelous!" cried Ebenezer. "Kin of thine?" 

"That I knew not, nor whether any were yet alive; I had it only that 
a Burlingame in sooth .a Henry Burlingame was among the very first 
to settle in that dominion, and I meant to find excuse to go there and 
make enquiries." 

"How ever came you to hear oft, while you sailed willy-nilly o'er the 
ocean? Tis of the stature of a miracle!" 

"No miracle, or 'tis an odd God worked it. The tale is no marvel of 
brevity, Eben." 

"Yet it must be told," Ebenezer insisted. 

Burlingame shrugged. "As you wish. Twas while I was with Pound, at 
the height of his pirating. Our usual prey was small merchantmen and 
coasting vessels; we would overhaul them, steal what pleased us, and turn 
'em loose, offering hurt to none save those who made to resist us. But 
once when a nor'easter ha<J blown us into Virginian waters we came upon 
2n ancient pinnace at the mouth of the York River, bound up the Chesa- 
peake, which, when we had turned out all her crew for looting, we found 
to carry three passengers besides: a coarse fellow of fifty years or so; his 
wife, who was some years younger; and their daughter, a girl not yet turned 
twenty. She was an uncommon tasty piece, by the look of her, dark-haired 
and spirited, and her mother not much less. At the sight of them our men 
put by all thought of plunder, which had in truth been lean, and made to 



[156] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

swive the twain of 'em then and there. Captain Pound durst not say them 
nay, albeit he was himself opposed to violence, for such was their ferocity, 
having seen nor hide nor hair of woman, as't were, since we sailed from 
Boston, they'd have mutinied on the spot. And had I made the smallest 
move to stay them, they'd have flung me in an instant to the fishes! 

'In a trice the ruffians stripped 'em and fetched 'em to the rail Tis e'er 
the pirates' wont to take their captives at the rail, you know, whether bent 
on't backwards or triced hand to foot o'ertop. A mate of mine saw a maid 
once forced by thirteen brigands in the former manner, with the taffrail at 
the small of her back, till at last they broke her spine and heaved her over. 
Tis but to make the thing more cruel, methinks, they do it thus; Captain 
Hill once told me of an old French rogue he'd met in Martinique, that 
swore no woman pleased him save when staring at the sharks who'd have 
her when the rape was done, and that having once tasted such refined 
delights he ne'er could roger mistresses ashore " 

"No more, I pray you!" Ebenezer cried* "Tis not a history of the 
salvagery I crave, but news of the hapless victims." 

"Thou'rt overly impatient, then/* Burlingame said mildly. The vilest 
deed hath a lesson in it for him who craves to learn. Howbeit, where did 
I leave the women?" 

"At the ship's rail, with their virtue in extremis.*' 
"Ah, indeed, 'twas a bad hour to be female, for sixteen men lined up to 
ravage 'em. The husband all the while was begging mercy for himself, with 
never a word for the women, and the wife resisting with all her strength; 
but the girl, when she saw the pirate's design, spoke quickly to her mother 
in French, which none aboard could ken save me, and she made no re- 
sistance, but asked the sailors calmly, with a French cast to her voice, which 
they had more use for, her chastity or a hundred pounds apiece? At first the 
men ignored her, so taken were they by the sight of her unclothed. 
But all the way to the tail she pled her case-or rather posed her offer, 
for her voice was cold and merchantlike. She was of French nobility, she 
declared, and her mother likewise, and should they meet with injury the 
entire crew would surely hang fort; but if they were set free unscathed, every 
man aboard would have a hundred pounds within the week, 

"Here I saw a chance to aid them, if I could but stay the pirates' lust a 
moment. To that end I joined their fondling-even pushed some others 
aside and forced her to the rail myself, as if to take first place-but 
then delayed, and when she made again her offer I cried, 'Hold back, 
mates, and let us hear the wench out ere we caulk her. Tis many a tart 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 1 57 3 

we could have with a hundred pounds.' I reminded them further of our 
plan to cross to France when we'd had our fill of pirating, and questioned 
whether 'twere prudent so to imperil our reception there. My chief intention 
was to stay them for a time at least and make them reflect, for reflection is 
a famous foe of violence 'tis a beast indeed who rapes on second thought! 
So far did the strategem succeed, that the men began to jeer and scoff at 
the proposal, but made no farther move for the nonce. 

" 'How is't ye ladies of the court be sailing on such a privy as this?' 
one asked, and the daughter replied they were not rich, but had only wealth 
enough to pay their promised ransom and would be paupers after. Another 
asked profanely of the mother, How was't a noblewoman thought no 
better of her noble arse than to wed it to that craven lout her husband? 
This I thought a sharper question, for he was indeed a coarse and common 
tradesman, by the look of him. But the daughter $poke rapidly in French, 
and the lady replied, that her husband came from one of Virginia's grand- 
est families. To which the daughter added, If you must know, 'twas a 
marriage of convenience,' and went on to say in effect,, that even as her 
father had bought her mother's honor with his estate, so now she would 
buy it back from us, for that same estate. The men took this merrily and 
heaped no end of ridicule upon the husband, who was like to beshit him- 
self with fright upon the deck. They were now of half a mind to swive 
and half to take the hundred pounds, but scarce knew whether or not 
to credit the women's story. 

"Now you must know that 'twas my wont whenever I met a stranger 
to enquire of him, Had he ever known a wight by name of Burlingame? 
And would explain, I had a friend called Henry Burlingame Third, who 
greatly wished to prove he was no bastard. All the men aboard had got 
accustomed to't, and made it their jest to speak amongst themselves of 
Henry Burlingame Third as some grand fellow whom all must know. For 
this reason, when the lady had made her speech a wag amongst us said, 
'If he be a great Virginia gentleman, then surely he must know Sir Henry 
Burlingame, the rtoblest Virginian that ever shat on sot-weed.' And he 
added that if they knew him not they must needs be impostors, and to 
the rail with 'em. At this methought the game was done,, inasmuch as 'twas 
but a fool's test, to give excuse for swiving. But the maid replied, she did 
indeed know of a Henry Burlingame of Jamestown, that had come thither 
with the first settlers and declared himself a knight, and she went on to 
say, by way of proof, that 'twas much doubted in her circle whether he 
was in truth of noble origin. 



[ 158 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"At this the men were much surprised, none more than myself, and I 
resolved to risk my life, if need be, to spare theirs so I might query them 
farther on this head. I declared to the men that all the wench had said 
of Burlingame was true, and that for my part I believed the whole of 
her tale and was ready to trade her maidenhead for a hundred pounds. 
The greater part of the men seemed ready enough to do the same, now their 
first ardor was cooled the more for that our pirating ere then had yielded 
little profit. Captain Pound raised then the question of hostages, and it was 
resolved that one of their number must remain behind till the ransom was 
paid, and forfeit life and honor if 'twere not At this, mother and daughter 
spoke briefly in French, after which each pleaded to be left as hostage, 
so that the father might be spared," 

44 'Sheart, what solicitude!" Ebenezer cried 'The wretch merited no such 
affection!" 

Burlingame laughed, "So't appeared to all the crew save me, who followed 
clearly what was said. Know, Eben, that these fine women were bald 
impostors. The daughter had conceived the ruse and told it to her mother 
in French. And when the matter of hostages arose, the mother had said 
Tray God they will take Harry, for then we'd be quit of him for fair, and 
not a penny poorer/ And the maiden's brave reply was, * Tis sure they will 
take thee or me for swiving, unless we persuade them of his value/ 'FoghP 
had cried the mother. The beast hath not the value of bou&m#rdef~~ 
which is to say, the droppings of a billy goat To this the maid replied, 
that such exactly were her sentiments, and the only recourse was to offer 
themselves and plead for his release relying on our gullibility. 

"The men at first ignored the bait, until I asked the ladies Wherefore 
their devotion, seeing he was such a craven brute, who had shown no con- 
cern for them at all what time we made to swive them, but blubbered 
only for himself? To which the maid replied, that though 'twas true he 
cared naught for them and had liefer part with both than lose ten crown, 
yet they did adore him as foolish women will, and would perish ere they 
saw him injured. The husband was so entirely astonished by this speech, 
that at first he could not speak for rage and tenor, and ere he could collect 
himself I declared that clearly he was not to be trusted ashore but must 
be our hostage, and the ladies sent for the ransom, inasmuch as their de- 
votion to him assured their return. The men were most reluctant to set 
the wenches free, but Captain Pound saw reason in my aiguznent, and 
ordered it so. The fellow was sent below in chains, the ladies fetched new 
clothing from their chests, and a boat was made ready to cany them 
ashore; but ere it left I got the Captain's ear in secret, aad implored him 



THE SOT-WEEI> FACTOR [ 159] 

to send me with them to guarantee their return, inasmuch as I could under- 
stand their tongue, unknown to them, and would thus be forewarned of 
any treachery. He was loath to let me go, but at length I prevailed upon 
him, and rowed off with the ladies in a longboat. The plan was that Pound 
should go a-pirating for some weeks and come again to the Capes where I 
would rejoin him at the end of September. Moreover, to quiet the suspicions 
of the crew, and their envy of my lot, I declared to them aside that I would 
have the women themselves bring the ransom aboard, which once secured, 
they could be swived till the rail gave way!" 

"Henry!" Ebenezer exclaimed. "Can't be that " 

"Hold on/* Burlingame interrupted, "till the tale is done. We were put 
ashore near Accomac, on Virginia's Eastern Shore, whence we were to start 
our journey to the ladies' home. Twas dark when we landed, for we feared 
detection, and we resolved to go no farther until dawn, but make a fire 
upon the beach wherewith to warm ourselves. As we watched the pirates 
make sail and get under way in the moonlight, both women wept for very 
joy, and the mother said, in French, 'God bless you, Henrietta; you have 
rid us of .the pirates and your father in a single stroke!" The maid replied, 
'Rather bless this fellow with us, who is so wondrous stupid to believe my 
lies/ Indeed,' said the mother. 'Who'd have looked for such a fool 'neath 
such a handsome skin?' At this they laughed at their boldness, little dream- 
ing I could grasp their every word, and to carry the sport yet farther the 
maid declared, 'Aye, in sooth he is a pretty fellow, mother, such as you 
nor I have never spent a night with/ 'Nor would ever/ said the other, 
Tiad we not got shed of Harry. I must own that had he made the threat 
alone, I'd have let him have his rape and saved our money. Yet I'd not 
have wished thee touched/ 'Oh la/ the maid replied, 'think not I plan to 
lose a penny: the handsome wretch will fall asleep anon, and we shall 
either flee or do him to death. As for my maidenhead, 'tis but a champagne 
cork to me, which must be popped ere the pleasantries commence/ And 
looking me in the eye, she said for a tease, 'What say you, fellow: veux-tu 
&tre man tire-bouchon? Eh? Veux-tu me vriller want que je te tue?' " 

"I know not the tongue/' said Ebenezer, "but the sound is far from 
chaste." 

"Shame on you, then, that you have not learned it," Burlingame scolded. 
" Tis a marvelous tongue for wooing in. I cannot tell how fetching 'twas 
to hear such lewdness spoke in such sweet tones. 'Poingonne-tu mon petit 
I hear't yet, i'faith, and sweat and shiver! I saw no need to carry 



the deception farther, and so replied in faultless Paris French, ' Twill be 
an honor, mademoiselle et madame, nor need you kill me after, for your 



[ ifo ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

joy at leaving those brigands behind doth not exceed my own/ They had 
like to perish of astonishment and shame on hearing me, the maid es- 
pecially; but when I explained how I had come to be among the pirates, 
and what it was I sought, they were soon pacified nay, cordial, even more 
than cordial. They could scarce leave off expressing gratitude, and, seeing 
the cat was out of the bag, we spent the night a-sporting on the sand." 

"A pretty tale indeed, if not a virtuous," Ebenezer said. "But did you 
learn no more of that old Burlingame, for whom you'd saved the ladies?" 

"Aye," said Burlingame. "That same night I queried them whether 'twas 
but a fiction they'd contrived regarding Burlingame. And the maid replied 
'twas no fiction at all, that her father was a great pretender to distinction, 
who, though he was in fact a bastard, was much concerned to glorify his 
lineage and was forever running hither and thither for ancient records, 
which his daughter had to search for the family name. Twas for just that 
cause they'd made the trip to Jamestown, where 'mid numerous musty pa- 
pers she'd found what looked to be some pages of a journal writ by one 
Henry Burlingame. Howbeit, she gave it but a cursory reading, seeing it 
made no mention of her family, and recalled only that it spoke of some 
journey or other from Jamestown; that Captain John Smith was the leader; 
and that there seemed some ill feeling 'twixt him and the author of the 
journal Past that she'd read no more nor could remember aught Twas 
not long ere I'd had my fill of amorosities for thirty-five hath no great 
stamina in such matters and fell asleep beside the fire. When the sun 
aroused me in the morning I found the women gone, not have I seen 
them since. Twas delicacy, methinks, that moved them ere I waked fall 
many a deed smells sweet at night that stinks in the heat of the sun, What's 
more, their reputations were secure, for at no time since we'd overhauled 
their ship had they revealed their names, nor more of where they lived 
save that 'twas on the Eastern Shore of Maryland," 

"And did you make your way thence to Jamestown?* 

"Nay, to Anne Arundel County and Captain Hill I wanted sore to learn 
whether Coode had harmed him, and too I had not a farthing about me 
wherewith to eat Twas my design to work awhile for Hill and then pursue 
my quest, for I will own I was not indifferent toward the politics of the 
place, and would have welcomed another mission like the one I'd just 
returned from." 

'Thou'rt a glutton for adventure, Ebenezer said. 

''Mayhap I am, or better, a glutton for the great world, of which I ne'er 
can see and learn enough." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ l6l ] 

Til warrant Captain Hill was pleased to, see you, and surprised!" 
"He was in sooth, for he had heard naught of me since Leisler's re- 
bellion in New York, and feared me dead. He said his positibn was most 
perilous, inasmuch as Coode and his men were daily laying waste his 
enemies' estates, and had spared his either through caprice or uncertainty 
as to Hill's influence in England. Twas Coode's conceit to call himself 
Masaniello, after the rebel of Naples; Colonel Henry Jowles of Calvert 
County, his chief lieutenant, played Count Scamburgh; Colonel Ninian 
Beale the Earl of Argyle; and Kenelm Cheseldyne, the speaker of the As- 
sembly, was Speaker Williams. While they played at court in this manner, 
and bragged and plundered down in St. Mary's, I spent the winter putting 
Hill's estate in order. Whene'er 'twas useful I made excursions about the 
province to the end of fomenting opposition in the several counties, and 
in the spring, when he got wind oft, Coode resolved to do us in. He 
trumped up a charge of treasonable speech and dispatched no fewer than 
forty men to destroy us. They seized the ship Hope, which Captain Hill 
had been at seven hundred pounds' expense to fit out for a voyage, and 
rifled the estate, and 'twas only our good fortune in escaping to the woods 
preserved our lives. 

"I went at first to sundry other sea captains, friends of Hill's and enemies 

of Colonel Coode " 

"Colonel!" Ebenezer broke in. "Methought he was a priest!" 
"The man is whate'er he chooses to call himself," Burlingame replied. 
"He owns to no authority save himself, and is a rebel 'gainst man and 
God alike. In any case, I learned from these men that Francis Nicholson, 
deposed by Leisler as a Jacobite, was now lieutenant governor of Virginia 
(which is to say the chief officer, since the governor lives in England ) 
and this by order of King William himself! It seems the King little bothers 
what a man is called by his enemies, so long as he doth his job well, and 
in sooth Old Nick is the veiy devil of a governor for all his faults. These 
tidings fell sweetly on my ear, inasmuch as Nicholson was the very man 
who'd best protect us, and Jamestown the very place I wished to go. I had 
Hill's friends write letters to Nicholson, describing Coode's barbarity and 
asking asylum for the Captain and his house, and ere June was done we 
were in Jamestown. 'Masaniello' and his crew begged and threatened 
Nicholson by turns to get their hands on us, but de'il the good it did him. 
'Tis both a fault and a virtue in Virginia, that fugitives from Maryland 
e'er find haven there." 



[ 162 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"But did you find the precious journal-book you sought?" asked Eben- 
ezer. "Or was't but a tale of a cock and a bull the lass on the strand had 
spun thee? Prithee put me off no farther on the matter; I must know whether 
such an odyssey bore fruit!" 

Burlingame laughed. "Make not such haste to reach the end, Eben; it 
spoils the pace and mixes the figures. Whoever saw an odyssey bear fruit?*' 

"Tease no more!" Ebenezer cried. 

"Very well, Master Laureate: I did indeed lay hands upon the journal, 
what oft there was; what's more, I made a copy of it, faithful to the 
letter save for one or two dull passages that I summarized. I have it here 
in my coat, and in the morning you shall read it. Suffice it now to say, 
I am persuaded 'tis a bona fide journal of Sir Henry Burlingame^ but 
whether or no the fellow is my ancestor I've still no proof/' 

"Ffaith, I'm glad you found it, and scarce can wait till dawn! Tis good 
thy tale is not yet done, else 'twere a hard matter to feet away the hours. 
What wondrous thing befell you next?" 

"No more tonight/' Burlingame declared. 'The road is smoother here, 
and the night's nigh done. The balance of the tale can wait till Plymouth/' 
So saying, he would hear no protest from Ebenezer, but stretching out his 
legs as best he could, went to sleep at once. The poet, however, was less 
fortunate: try as he might, he could not manage even to keep his eyes 
closed, much less resign himself to sleep, though his head throbbed from 
weariness. Again his mind was filled with names, the names first heard from 
Baltimore and now fleshed out by Burlingame's narration, and figures awful 
in their energy and purpose prowled his fancy his friend and tutor first 
among them. 



6: BURLINGAME'S TALE CARRIED YET FARTHER; THE 
LAUREATE READS FROM THE PR1V1E /QURNALL OF SIR 
HENRY BURLINGAME AND DISCOURSES ON THE 
NATURE OF INNOCENCE 



WHEN AFTER DAWN THE TRAVELERS STOPPED FOR THEIR MORNING MEAt 

at Yeovil, Ebenezer demanded at once to see the document Burlingame 
had spoken of, but his tutor lefused to hear of it until they'd eaten- Then, 
the sun having come out warm and bright, they retired outside to smoke 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 163 ] 

and stretch their legs, and Burlingame fetched several folded sheets from 
the pocket of his coat. Atop the first the poet read The Privie Jourhdl of 
Sir Henry Burlingame. 

"I should explain the title's mine/' said Burlingame. "As you can see, 
the journal is a fragment, but the journey it describes is writ in John Smith's 
Generdl Historie. Twas in January of 1607, the first winter of the colony, 
and they traveled up the Chickahominy River to find the town of Powhatan, 
Emperor of the Indians. There was much ill feeling against Captain Smith 
in Jamestown at the time: some were alarmed at his machinations to un- 
seat President Wingfield and President Ratcliffe; others charged him with 
flaunting the instructions of the London Company,, in that he wasted little 
time searching for gold or for a water passage to the East; others yet were 
merely hungry, and thought he should arrange for trade with Powhatan. 
Tis plain the voyage up the Chickahominy was a happy expedient, for't 
promised solution to all these grievances! the Captain would be out of 
politics for a while, for one thing, and some declared the Chickahominy 
ran west to the Orient; in any case, 'twas almost certain the Emperor's 
town lay not many miles upriver. Smith tells in his Historie how he was 
made captive by one of Powhatan's lieutenants, called Opecancanough, 
and escaped death by means of magical tricks with his compass. He swears 
next he was carried alone to Powhatan, condemned to death, and saved 
by intercession of the Emperor's daughter. His version oft I have writ there 
under the title." 

Ebenezer read the brief superscription: 

Being ready with their clubs, to beate out his braines, Pocahontas, the 
Kings dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevaile, got his head in 
her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save him from death; whereat 
the Emperour was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and 
her bells, beads, and copper; for they thought him as well of dH occupa- 
tions as themselves. 

"Ffaith," he said, " 'tis a marvelous rescue!" 

" Tis a marvelous romance," Burlingame corrected, "for the substance 
of the Journall is, that this Burlingame witnessed the whole proceeding, 
which was not so wondrous heroic after all. I'll say no more, but leave 
you to read the piece without delay." 

So saying, Burlingame went inside the inn, and Ebenezer, finding a 
bench in the sun, made himself comfortable and read in the Journall as 
follows: 



[ 164 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

The Privie Journdl of Sir Henry Burlingame 

I ... had divers times caution* d [Smith], that our guide, a rascaHie Salvage 
that had liefer sted f purse than look at you, was nowise to be trusted, he being, 
doubtless in the pay of the E m ^ [Powhatan]. But he w* none of this, and 
when, the River growing too shdlowe for our vessels, this same Salvage proposed 
we walk overland to the E 1 *** towne, w* k he claimed wets hard bye, our C a ** 
agreed at once, maugre the fact, w* h I poynted out to him f that the 'woods there 
were thick as any jungle, and we w* be $ett upon with ease by hostile Salvages. 
The C a ** made the usuall rejoynders, that he ever rnaketh on being shown his 
ignorance and follie, to witt: that I was a coward* a parasite, a lillie-liver'd infant, 
and belike an Eunuch into the bargain. This lost, he regordeth as the suprem- 
est insult he can hurl, for that he him selfe taketh inordinate pride in his virHitie, 
In sooth, such a devotee of Venus is oar O*, that rare are th* times when 
he doth not boast openlie, and in the lewdest terms, of his conquests and feats 
of love dl over the Continent and among the Moors, Turks, and Africkans. 
He fancieth him self a Master of Vonwedl Arts, md boa&eth to have known 
carruxUie every kind of Woman on Earth, in all of Arttines positions. In addition 
to w*, he owneth an infamous lott of croticka collected in his tr&vtis, items 
from w* he oft dtepkyeth to certain of us privSi*, with dl the mwggnim of <* 
Connoisseur. More of this anon, but I may not* here, that fudging from our 
O' preoccupation with these thingp, w**ofta$not represent unnatwatt as mU 
as naturdt vices, I w* be no whit surprised to learn, that h& taste comprehend 
more than those of t he common libertine . * * * 

[The Author here describes, how the party goetfa ashote, and is fed by their 
treacherous guide into the hands of the Indians.] 

The Salvages then setting upon w, as had him prt dkrfrdf by mm uriatr thm 
our O*, we fought them off <ts fast w* c* 9 with muM wxxs*, for th* qu&tm 
were close and our attaekm virtual!** atop iw. Our Jwder, /or his part, shrtwdli* 
puWd that Ganelon our Guide before him for a shield, and retreated in afl haste, 
exhorting us the while to fight like men, HappUi*, he caught his foot upon a 
root of cyprm, and flew backward off th* b&& into th* mud md >ct. Th* 
Sdva%e$ having by tfcfe time captur*d us, leapt upon him, md held him fast on 
his back, and on our informing them, in r*spons* to th*r* gum*, Who iw our 
leader? that it was he, there Chief, Opecm&mougfi, md his stmeil Ueutmemte, 
pleas' d them selves openlie, md us private, by thereupon mofemg water upon ftitn, 
each in his turn according to rank. 

[The prisoners, of w<* there are five, are cany'd to a clearing, where they 
are tied one at a time to a sweetgum tree and shot with arrows, till none but 
Smith and Burlingame remain,] 



^,m, 
to the same fate suffer'd by the others. A gentleman to the md [Smith] . . . 
modestlie suggested, that I precede him. Be't said, that in matter* of thi* sort 
my owne generositie i$ peer to any mans, and hod it protfd r*ce$s<me, I *** 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 165 ] 

stoutlie have declined my CP* gesture. Howbeit, Opecancanough pay*d no heed, 
but him selfe taking the C^ by the arme, pull'd him toward the bloodie tree. 
At this juncture, the C ** (who afterwards confided to me, he was searching for 
his Africkan good-luck peece) withdrew from his coat a packet of little colour 7 d 
cards, the w\ with seeming innocence, he let fall to the grvwnd. The Salvages 
at once became arows'd, and scrabl'd one atop the other, to see who S M retrieve 
the most. Upon examining them, they, found the cards to portray, in vivid colours, 
Ladies and Gentlemen mother-naked, partaking of sundrie amorosities one with 
another: in parties of two, three, four, and even five, these persons were shown 
performing licentious feats, the w h to be performed in actuall life w d want, in 
addition to uncommon lubricitie, considerable imagination and no small tallent 
for gymnastick. 

One can fancie with what whoops and howls of glee the Salvages received 
these works of the pornographers art, for Salvages are a degenerate race, little 
rais'd above the beastes they hunt, and as such share with white men of the same 
stamp a love for all that is filthie and salacious. They at least had in their favour, 
that they had never before seen a white woman cloth'd, much less uncloth'd, 
and how much less indulging in such anticks as were now reveal 9 d to them. They 
laught and shouted, and snatch'd the cards from one another, to see them all. 

[They] ask'd [Smith], Whether he had more [of the cards]? Whereat he took 
the opportunitie to draw from his pocket a small compasse, the wonder of which 
was (for I had seen it before, to my abashment), that not only did it shew the 
poynts of the compasse, w oh marvett alone w d methinks have suffic'd to awe the 
Salvages ... it dso, by virtue of tinie paintings on small peeces of glass mounted 
inside it, treated the deprav'd eye of him who lookt through little peepholes 
in the sides, to scenes like those of the cards, but more real, /or that there dev- 
ilish creator had a nice facilitie of giving to the scenes a sense of depth, so that 
one had the feeling (pleasant to degenerates) of peering through a keyhole, 
to witness gentlemen comporting themselves like stallions, and ladies like mares 
inrutt, . . 

Hawbeit, the damnable device must needs be held in a certain manner, so 
that its lenses caught the sun at a proper angle. The Salvages, and Opecan* 
canough in especially being quite unable to master this simple trick, it was 
neces$arie they preserve the wretch my C* t9 life, in order, presumablie, that he 
migfit serve as operator of there MayfdT show for ever. So arows'd were they 
over there treasures, that maugre what I took to be suggestions on my C**** part, 
that only he was needed to perform the miracles of the compasse, the Salvages 
took both of us along with them to Opecancanoughs town, w h lay, we were 
told, hard by that of the Emperour . . . entirelie forgetting, in there vicious 
delight, to fill my stomacke with there arrowes . . . 

[The twain are carried to the town of Opecancanough, and thence to 
Powhatans town, and at length into the presence of the Emperour himself.] 



[This prospect] appeafd to please my Cw* rrdghtilie, for he spoke of naught 
besides, when indeed he deign'd converse tyith me at all, but how he had 
schemd the most efficacious manner of winning the Emperours favour, as 



[ l66 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

soone as ever he S M be presented to that worthie. I ... warn'd him, more, I 
confess, toward the saving of my owne skinne, w** I cafd not to loose, then 
the saving of his, that we were, for aught 1 c d see, still mere prisoners, and not 
emissaries of the King, and that as such, I, for one, s* tf be content were I to leave 
the forthcoming interview with my head yet affix'd to my shoulders, and my, 
bellie free of arrowes, without troubling farther about Emperial favours or barter- 
ing agreements. My CP* made me his usual! witless insults for replie. . . . 

On being led into the house of this Pawhatan, my feares multiply*d, for I 
sweare he -was the evilkst-appearing wight I hope to incounter. He seem'd neare 
sixtie; the browne fleshe of him was drfd and bewinkTd as is the skinne of an 
apple left overlong in the sunne, and the loohe upon his face as sower, as w* be 
such an apple to the tongue. 1 sawe in that face no favour , . . Hfe eyes, more 
then any thing, held me, for despite a certaine hardnesse in them, like old flint, 
what mark'd them most, so it seem'd to me r was an antick lecherie, such as one 
remarketh in the eyes of profligates and other dissolute old persons. My O*, I 
might $ay, hath the beginning of such eyes, and at sixtie, it pleaseth me to think, 
will quite resemble this Powhatan. 

The Emperours surroundings, moreover, did beare out my judgemmt; in addi- 
tion to his bodie-guard, a goodlie number of Salvage wenches pottefd 
about the roome, drest like Ladle Eve, only flaunting a bitt of animal-skinne aver 
that part, w h the Mother ofusatt was wont to disguise with a peece of foliage. 
This one fetch'd her Lord a portion of tobacco; that one lem'd over him to light 
his pipe with a brand; this one rubb'd his backe with the grease of bear*, or some 
such mdodouTous decoction . . . and one & all he rewarded with a smart 
tweake, or like pleasantrie, the w**, at hi* advanced age, *** righttie have been to 
him no more than a fond memon'e. These the wenches forebore without 
compleynt , . . m sooth they seemd to vye for the ancient satyrs attentions, 
and performed there simple duties with aU po&ible voluptuoumesse, as if 
therebye to rowse there King to acts more fitting a mm my age, then a dotard 
his ... My C<** observed these maids with wondrous interest, md I sawe 
in his eye more attention* then v* fay* been requir'd stmplie to transfer the 
scene to hi$ trumpeting Historic. For my selfe, I was too occupy' d with the mere 
holding of my 'water, w* h&inm is chore enougjh in such a fearsome pass, to ewe 
ivfort chanrw the heathenish slutt* offered there Emperotav or with what tewd 
behaviour he replfd. , . . 

... I must mention here, that Pcwhaten was mt*d on a sort of rw*d bed- 
stead, and on the floor before him sat a retHi* striking Salvag* maid, of perhaps 
sixteen yeare$, who from the richw&e of her costume and the deference pay'd 
her by the other Salvages, I took to be the Queen*. Throughout the banquet 
that fottcw'd our entrie into the house, this young ladie scarce took her eyed 
from us, and though unlike my O*, J am a man not given to fading him selfe 
a$ regard* Afe come/mm to the faire sex, I can only say, in woih, that what was 
in her eye* exceeded that natural! curiositie, w* one might ftow on #nrt behd& 
ing fair-$kinn*d men. Powhatan, I thinke, obwrfd this, far his fa* gm> ever 
more sower as t fte mede progress* d> For this reason, I avoided the Queenes &&* 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 167] 



assiduouslie, so as not farther to prejudice our state. My. C^, for his part . . . 
return 9 d her amourous glances with glances of his owne, of such unmistakeable 
import, that had I been the Emperour I had struck him dead forthwith. My poore 
heart trembl f d for the safetie of my head . . . 

[A description followeth of the feast serv'd the two prisoners. It is a 
Gargantuan affair, but the Author is unable to keep a morsel on his stomach. 
Smith, on the contrary, gorgeth himself very like a swine in the slaughterhouse.] 



My Cw* . . . took it on him selfe then to make a small speech, the gist of w ch 
(for I, too, comprehended somewhat of the heathen gibberish) was, that he had 
brought with him a singular gifte for the Emperour, but that, unluckilie, it had 
been removed from his person by the Emperours lieutenant (that same infamous 
Opecancanough, who was the death of our companions earlier) . Powhatan forth- 
with commanded Opecancanough thither, and bade him produce the gifte, if 
he had it. Albeit he was loath to part with it, Opecancanough fish'd out the 
wicked compass before describ'd, and gave it to his Chief, who thereupon caus'd 
his lieutenant to be birch' d, for that he had intercepted it. This was, certain, a 
grosse injustice, inasmuch as Opecancanough had had no knowledge that the 
compasse was meant for Powhatan, as neither had my Cw*, what time to save 
his skinne he had given the vile machine to Opecancanough. Notwithstanding 
w h , the Salvage was deliver 1 d out the room, for birching, and I sawe no future 
good therein for us. . . . 

Next my Cw*, to my great astonishment, commenced to shew to Powhatan 
the secrets of the compasse, directing its little lenses at the fyre to light the 
shamefull scenes within. I was certdne our end was at hand, and ready' d my 
selfe to dye as befitteth a Gentleman, for surelie no man, not even a Salvage, 
who hath the qualities to raise him selfe to the post of Prince, even over a nation 
of benighted heathen, c d but be disgusted by such spectacles, as now lay illu- 
min'd to the Emperours eyes. For the thousandth time, I curs' d my C"** for a 
black & arrant fooL 

Yet here I reckoned without the degeneracie of the Salvage, whose bestiall 
fancie ever delighteth in vilest things. So far from taking umbrage, Powhatan 
had like to split his lecherous sides on beholding the little painting; he slapt his 
knees, and slaver' d copiouslie over his wrinkfd lipps. A long time pass'd ere he 
c* remove his eye from the foul peep-hole, and then only to peer therein againe, 
and againe, each time hollowing with glee. 

At length my O* made it knowne, the Queene, as well, S M receive a gifte, 
At this pronouncement, I clos'd my. eyes and made my peace with God, for 
knowing sufficient by this time of the nature of my C tB giftes, and sensing 
farther the jealousie of the Emperour, I expected momentlie to feel the toma- 
hawke at my neck. The Queene, however, seemed greatlie pleas'd at the pros- 
pect As I might have guess' d, my O>* had reserved for her the most impressive 
gifte of die. He drew from his inexhaustible pocket a smalle booke of sorts, con- 
structed of a number of little pages bound fast at there tops (this miracle too I 
had seene at Jamestowne). On everie page a drawing 'was, of the sort one 
w* be loath to shew ones wife, each drawing alter'd only by a little from his 



[ l68 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

neighbour, and the -whole in a kind of sequence, so thai , $** one grasp the lewd 
booke by the top, and bending it slightlie, attorn the pages to spring rapidlie 
each after each before the eye, the result was, that the figures thereon assumed 
the semblance of life, in that they mov'd to & fro about there sinfull business. 
Alas! The Queene, it grew cleare, was depr&fd as was her consort. Over & 
over againe, once having learnt the virtue of the small booke, she set the actors 
therein to moving, each time laughing dlovtd at what she sawe . . . 

[More food is serv'd, and a sort of Indian liquor, both of w* 1 * Smith takes 
unto himself in quantity. The Author declines, for the same reasons as be- 
fore. The Queene appoints herself to wait on Smith personally, laving his hands 
and fetching bunches of wild-turkey feathers wherewith to dry them.] 

The while this second feasting was in progrem, I confriVd to tcrewe up sufficient 
courage to observe Powhatan, hoping to reade in his face prognostication of 
what was to followe. What I sawe did not refresh my spirits . . . The Emperour 
never tooke his gaze from the Quern*, who in turn, never remold here from my 
C**\ with everie indecent promise in her eyes. She was on everie side of him at 
once, fetching this & carrying that, all her movements exaggerated, and none 
befitting any save a Drury Lane vesioH. My O*> whether through his charao 
terist ick ignorance, or, what is more tikeUe, in pursuit of wme twisted design* 
of his owne, reply* d to her coquetries in kind. None of this ttcap'd the Emp*r~ 
our, 'who, it seem'd to m, iwis scare* abb to put away few gluttonous repast, jot 
watching them. When then thi$ Powhatan wmmon'd to his couch three of hi* 
evillest-appearing lieutenants, all coafd & oyFd & bedaub'd & brtasseTd 
& bedizen*d> and commenced with them a long colloquy of heathen grunts & 
whisperings, the purport whereof was tmtguivocijB, t once a&rin* commended 
my soule to Cods mercie, for I looKd to m#*t him sftortiii fax to face. My O* 
pay'd no heede, but wnt on blindli* with hi* tport. 

My ... feares, it was Boon pmfd, were }u$tify*d< Th* Emptrour made a 
signall, and the three great Sdvag** lay'd hold of my O', Despite his protest* 
tiow, the w** were lowd enow, he was cany*d up to Powfortoi* couch, and there 
forced to hi$ knees. The Salvages lay*d his hu*d upon a poire of gnat* afcm*> put 
there for the purpose, and catching up time ugli* ww^faifefej, had b*at* out what 
mdte brdrm my C<#* migfit make claim to, were it not that at thi$ juncture, the 
Qu&ew her setfe> to my astonishment, interceded. Running to the dtar, the 
flung her wife bodUie upon my C*** f and decbtfd to Powhatan, that rethxr W* she 
loose her owne head, then that they $** dash in fe& Were I theEmperovrJowne 
I $ M have done the twain to d&zth, for that so cfaxre an alliance c* lead but to 
adultme ere long. But Powhatan stey'd his fcuflw; the anemblie was dimist* 
saving only the Emperour, his Queene, my O*, & my self* ( who aU 9eem*d to 
have forgot, thank God) , and for the nonce, it ettx&^myhtartw* go on bett- 
ing in my breast. , , . 

[Th*re folhw'q a speech by the Empewur, w**, a best I grtap'd it, m* w*> 
ww& as it vm improper. Some I grant ew&d me, for that Powhxtm spake 
wth great rapiditi* and chetfd Ms word$ witfcdL Bui the minim of wlwrf I 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 169 ] 

gather'd -was, that the Queene was not his Queene at all, neither one amongst 
his concubines (whereof he kept a goodlie number), but his daughter, her name 
being Pocahontas. By this name is signify'd, in there tongue, the smalle one, or 
she of the smallnesse and impenetrabilitie, and this, it seem'd, referr'd not to 
the maidens stature, w ch was in sooth but slight, nor to her mind, w ch one c* 
penetrate with passing ease. Rather it reflected, albeit grosslie, a singular physi- 
cked short-coming in the childe 9 to witt: her prMtie was that nice, and the 
tympanum therein so surpassing stout, as to render it infrangible. This fact 
greatlie disturb' d the Emperour, for that in his nation the barbarous custom was 
practiced, that whensoever a maid be affianc'd, the Salvage, who wisheth to wed 
her, must needs first fracture that same membrane, whereupon the suitor is 
adjudg'd a man worthie of his betrothed, and the nuptialls followe. Now Powha- 
tan, we were told, had on sundrie occasions chosen warriors of his people to wedd 
this Pocahontas, but in everie instance the ceremonie had to be foregone, seeing 
that labour as they might, none had been able to deflowr her, and in sooth the 
most had done them selves hurt withal, in there efforts; whereas, the proper thing 
was, to injure the young lasse, and that as grievouslie as possible, the degree of 
injurie being reck'd a measure of the mans virilitie. Inasmuch as the Salvages are 
wont to marrie off there daughters neare twelve yeares of age, it was deem'd a 
disgraceful! thing, the Emperour s hd have a daughter sbcteene, who was yet a 
maide. 

Continuing this discourse, [Powhatan] said, that whereas his daughter had 
seen fitt, to save my Cw t8 life, what time it had been the Emperours pleasure to 
dashe out his braines, then my. C ** must needs regard him selfe affianc'd to her, 
and submit him selfe to that same labour (to witt, essaying the gate to Venus 
grottoe) as her former suitors. But . . . with this difference, that where, having 
faiVd, her Salvage beaux had merelie been disgrac'd, and taunted as olde women, 
my C***, s hd he prove no better, his head w* be lay'd againe upon the stones, 
and the clubbing of his braines proceed without quarter or respite. 

Att this Pocahontas heard with greate joye, maugre its nature, w 071 w d have 
mortify' d an English ladie; and my OP*, too, accepted readilie (in sooth he had 
no option in the matter) . For my part, I was pleas' d to gaine reprieve once more 
from the butchers block, albeit a briefe one, for I could not see, since that the 
Salvages were of large stature, and my C a ** so slight of build, how that he s* 4 
triumph where they had fail'd, unlesse there were some wondrous disproportion, 
in both cases, betwixt the size of what in each was visible, and what conceal' d, 
to the casuall eye. My fate, it seem'd, hung on my C**% and for that I bade 
him Godspeed, preferring to heare for ever his endlesse boasting (w n w d surelie 
followe his successe), then to wettwith my braines the Salvage clubbs, w oh fate 
awaited me upon his failure. The carnall joust was set for sunup, in the publick 
yard of sorts, that fronted the Emperours house, and the entire towne was 
order' d to be present. This alone, I wot, w* have sufjjic'd to unstarch an ordinarie 
man, my selfe included, who am wont to worshipp Venus (after my fashion) 
in the privacie of darken 9 d couches; but my C ** appeared not a whitt ruffl'd, and 
in sooth seem'd eager to make his essaye publicklie. This, I take it, is apt meas- 
ure of his swinishnesse, for that whenas a gentleman is forc'd, against his witt, 



[ 170 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

to some abominable worke, he wiU dispatch it with as much expedition, and as 
little notice r as he can, -whereas the rake & foole will noise the matter about, 
drawing the eyes of the world to his follie & license, and is never more content, 
then when he hath an audience to his mischief. . . . 

[Here endeth the existing portion of the journal] 

" 'Dslife, what a place to end itf " Ebenezer cried when he had finished 
the manuscript, and hurried to find Burlingame. "Was there no more, 
Henry?" 

"Not another word, I swear't, for 1 combed the town to find the rest." 

"But marry, one must know how matters went whether this hateful 
Smith made good his boasts, or thy poor ancestor lost his life." 

"Ah well/ 1 Burlingame replied, "this modi we know, that both escaped, 
for Smith went on that same year to explore the Chesapeake, and Burling- 
game at least set down this narrative. What's more, if I be not a bastard 
he must needs have got himself a wife in later years, for none is mentioned 
here. I'God, Eben, I cannot tell you how I yearn to know the rest!" 

"And I," laughed Ebenezer, "for though belike she was no poet, this 
Pocahontas was twice the virgin I am!" 

To Ebenezefs surprise, Buriingame blushed deeply, That is not what 
I meant" 

"I know full well you didn't; 'tis your ancestry concerns you, Yet 'tis 
no vulgar curiosity, this other: the fall of viigins always is instructive, nor 
doth the world e'er weary of the tale. And the harder the fell, the better." 

"Indeed?'' Burlingame smiled, regaining his composure. **Ad prithee 
tell me, What lesson doth it teach?" 

"'Tis odd that I should be the teacher and you the pupil," Ebenezer 
said, "yet I will own 'tis a subject dose to my heart, and one to which 
I've given no small attention. My conclusion is, that mankind sees two 
morals in such tales: the fall of innocence, or the fall of pride. The first 
sort hath its archetype in Adam; the second in Satan. The first alone hath 
not the sting of tragedy, as hath the second: the virgin pure and simple, 
like Pocahontas, is neither good nor vicious for her hymen; she is only 
envied, as is Adam, by the fallen. They secretly rejoice to sec her ravaged, 
as poor men smile to see a rich man robbed-e'en the virtuous fallen can 
feel for her no more than abstract pity. The second is the very stuff of 
drama, for the proud man oft excites our admiration; we live, as*t were, 
by proxy in his triumphs, and are cleansed and taught by pnwy in his fall. 
When we heap obloquy on Satan, is't not ouiadves we scold, for that we 
secretly admire his Heavenly insurrection?** 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ lyi ] 

"That all seems sound," said Burlingame. "It follows, doth it not, that 
when you profess abhorrence for the Captain, thou'rt but chastising your- 
self in like manner, or that part of you that wisheth him success?" 

" Tis unequivocally the case," Ebenezer agreed, "whene'er the critic's 
of the number of the fallen. For myself, 'twere as if a maid should cheer 
her ravisher, or my Lord Baltimore support John Coode." 

"I think that neither is impossible, but let it go. I will say now, friend 
Poet, thine own fall, when it comes, must needs be glorious, inasmuch as 
thou'rt both innocent and proud." 

"Wherein lies my pride?" asked Ebenezer,, clearly disconcerted by his 
friend's observation. 

"In thy very innocence, which you raise above mere circumstance and 
make a special virtue. Tis a Christian reverence you bear it, I swear!" 

"Christian in a sense/' Ebenezer replied, "albeit your Christians St. 
Paul excepted pay scant reverence to chastity in men. Tis valued as a 
sign nay, a double sign, for't harketh back alike to Eve and Mary. Therein 
lies its difference from the cardinal virtues, which refer to naught beyond 
themselves: adultery's a mortal sin, proscribed by God's commandment 
not so fornication, I believe." 

"Then virginity's a secondary virtue, is't not, and less to be admired than 
faithfulness? I think not even More would gainsay that." 

"But recall," Ebenezer insisted, "I said 'twas only in a sense I share the 
Christians' feeling. Methinks that mankind's virtues are of two main 
sorts " 

"Aye, that we learn in school," said Burlingame, who seemed prepared 
to end the colloquy. "Instrumental if they lead us to some end, and 
terminal if we love them in themselves. Tis schoolmen's cant" 

"Nay," said Ebenezer, "that is not what I meant; those terms bear little 
meaning to the Christian, I believe, who on the one hand hopes by all 
his virtues to reach Heaven, and yet will swear that virtue is its own reward. 
What I meant was, that sundry virtues are I might say plain, for want 
of proper language,, and some significant. Among the first are honesty in 
speech and deed, fidelity, respect for mother and father, charity, and the 
like; the second head's comprised of things like eating fish on Friday, resting 
on the Sabbath, and coming virgin to the grave or marriage bed, whiche'er 
the case may be; they all mean naught when taken by themselves, like the 
strokes and scribbles we call writing their virtue lies in what they stand 
for. Now the first, whether so designed or not, are matters of public policy, 
and thus apply to prudent men, be they heathens or believers. The second 



[ 1J2 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

have small relevance to prudence, being but signs, and differ from faith to 
faith. The first are social, the second religious; the first are guides for life, 
the second forms of ceremony; the first practical, the second mysterious 
or poetic " 

"I grasp the principle," Burlingame said. 

"Well then/' Ebenezer declared, "it follows that this second sort are 
purer, after a fashion, and in this way not inferior at all, but the reverse." 

"La, you have the heart of a Scholastic," Burlingame said disgustedly. 
"I see no purity in 'em, save that all the sense is filtered out the residue 
is nonsense/' 

"As you wish, Henry I do not mean to argue Christianity but only my 
virginity, which if senseless is to me not therefore nonsense, but essence. 
Tis but a sign as with the Christians, that I grant, yet it pointeth not to 
Eden or to Bethlehem, but to my soul ! prize it not as a virtue, but as 
the very emblem of my self, and when I call me virgin and poet 'tis not 
more boast than who should say I'm male and English. Prithee chide me 
no more on't, and let us end this discourse that pleaseth you so little/* 

"Nonetheless/' Burlingame declared, " 'twill be a fall worth watching 
when you stumble/' 

"I do not mean to fall/' 

Burlingame shrugged. "What climber doth? Tis but the more likely in 
your case, for that you travel as't were asleep thy friend McEvoy was no 
dullard there, albeit a callous fellow. Yet haply the fell will open your eyes/' 

"I would have thought thee more my friend, Henry, but on this head 
thou'rt brusque as erst in London, when I went with Anna to St. Giles. 
Have you forgot that day in Cambridge, the pass wherein you found me? 
Or that malady whereof I spoke but yesterday, that 1 was wont to suffer 
in the winehouse? Think you I'd not rejoice," he went on, growing more 
aroused, "to be in sooth a climber, that stumbling would move men to 
fear and pity? I do not dimb, but merely walk a road, and stumbling 
ne'er shall fall a mighty fall, but only cease to walk, or drift a wayless ship 
on every current, or haply just moss over like a stone. I see nor spectacle 
new instruction in such a fall" 

Buriingame made no more of the matter and apologized to Ebenezer 
for bis curtness. Nonetheless he remained out of sorts, as did the poet, 
for some hours afterwards, and in fact it was not until a short time before 
they arrived in Plymouth that they entirely regained their spirits, and 
Burlingame, at Ebenezer's request, took up again the tale of his adventures, 
wBch he'd left at his discovery of the fragmentary joqmal* 



7 : BURLINGAME'S TALE CONCLUDED, AND THE 
TRAVELERS ARRIVE AT PLYMOUTH 



"THAT PORTION OF THE PRIVIE JOURNALL THAT YOU READ/' SAID 
Burlingame, "so far from cooling the ardor of my quest, did but enflame it 
the more, as you might imagine, inasmuch as it said There was a Henry 
Burlingame, yet told me neither that he e'er had progeny, nor that among 
his children was my father. There was one ground for hope and speculation: 
namely, that Captain John Smith set out that very summer to explore the 
Chesapeake, wherein near half a century later I was found floating. Yet no- 
where in his Historie doth he mention Burlingame, nor is that poor wight 
listed with the party. I searched the ancient papers of the colony arid 
asked the length and breadth of Jamestown, but no word more could I 
find on the matter. I made bold to enquire of Nicholson himself whether 
he knew aught of other records in the Dominion. And he replied he had 
been there so short time he scarce knew where the privy was, but added, 
there was a grievous dearth of paper in the provinces, and 'twas no uncom- 
mon thing for officers of the government to ransack older record? for paper 
writ on but the recto, to the end they might employ the verso for themselves. 
He himself deplored this practice, for he is a man devoted to the cause of 
learning, but he said there was no cure for't till the provinces erected their 
own paper mills. 

"It seemed to me quite likely my Journatt had suffered this fate, inasmuch 
as 'twas writ on a good grade of English paper, and the author had employed 
the recto only, I despaired of e'er discovering the rest, and in the fall of 1690 
went with Captain Hill to London. Our intention was to litigate to clear 
the charges of seditious speech against him, and if possible to undo Colonel 
Coode and his companions. The moment was propitious, for Coode 
himself and Kenelm Cheseldyne, his speaker, had also sailed for London 
and would not have their bullies to defend 'em. I so arranged matters that 
a number of his enemies appeared in England that same season, and I 
thought that if we filed a host of depositions against him, we could thereby 
either work his ruin or at least detain him whilst we plotted farther. To 
this end I made a secret trip to Maryland ere we sailed, with the design of 
slipping privily into St. Mary's City and stealing the criminal records of 



[ 174 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Coode's courts, or bribing them stolen, for no clearer proof could be of his 
corruption. Howbeit, the man anticipated my plan, as oft he doth: I 
learned that he and Cheseldyne had carried off the records with f em. 

"In any case we set our plot in motion. No sooner did we dock at London 
in November than the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations sub- 
poenaed Coode to confront Lord Baltimore before them, to answer that 
worthy's charges against him. At the same time Colonel Henry Coursey, of 
Kent County, petitioned against Coode and Cheseldyne, as did John 
Lillingstone, the rector of St Paul's Parish in Talbot County, and ten 
other souls, all known Protestants for 'twas Coode's chief defense for his 
rebellion that he was putting down the barbarous Papists, as he sworn him- 
self in writing at the time. Finally Hill made his own petition, and even our 
friend Captain Burford of the Abraham & Fnmeig, who had helped us flee 
to Nicholson and whose ship the rogues had lately crossed on, deposed in 
Plymouth that Coode had in his presence damned Lord Baltimore and 
vowed to spend the revenues embezzled from the Piovince, 

"For a time it seemed we had him dead to rights, but he is a damned 
resourceful devil and had a perfect shield for our assaults. The year before, 
just prior to the rebellion, a wight named John Payne, who collected His 
Majesty's customs on the Patuxent River, had been shot to death either 
aboard or near a pleasure-sloop belonging to Major Nicholas Sewall, and 
Coode had rigged a charge of willful murther against Sewall and four ethos 
on the sloop. Nick Sewall was Deputy Governor of Maryland before the 
rebellion, but more than that he is Charles Calverf s nephew, the son of 
Lady Baltimore herself. The rebels had him hostage in St, Maiy's, and at 
any time could turn him over to the court of Neamiah Blackistone, Coodc's 
crony, who would hang him certain. Thus our hands woe tied and our 
plot squelched, the more for that we had not the criminal recoitls for evi- 
dence. The Lords Commissioners cleared Captain Hill in December, and 
Colonel Heniy Damall too, Lord Baltimore's agent, who'd been charged 
with treasonable speech and inciting the Choptico Indians to slaughter 
Protestants on the Eastern Shore; but Coode they could not touch, or haply 
would not, at Lord Baltimore's behest, The confrontation came to naught, 
and Coode made meny with the whores of London, on money swindled 
from the King himself* 

"I saw no farther usefulness for myself with Captain Hfll; he was free to 
go back to the Severn, and had no moie taste for politics. But my inteiest in 
John Coode had near replaced my forme* quest, which seemed a cuWwac; 
the man intrigued me with his cunning and his boldness, his shifting roles 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 175 \] 

as minister and priest, and most of all his motives: he seemed to have no 
wish for office, and held no post save in the St. Mary's County militia; he 
plundered more for sport than avarice, and would risk all to make a clever 
move. The fellow loved intrigue itself, I swear, and would unseat a governor 
for amusement! At length I vowed to match my wits with his, and to that 
end offered my services to Lord Baltimore as a sort of agent-at-large in the 
Maryland business. The Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations 
were kindly disposed towards Baltimore at this time, for they knew full well 
John Coode was a rascal and King William had no more right than you or I 
to seize the Province; yet they could do naught to stop 'em. Therefore 
when time had come to name a royal governor, they gave milord some say 
in his selection, and he picked the great dunderhead Sir Lionel Copley, 
who could not tell a knave from a saint. Now I had caught a rumor that 
Coode was privy to the Governor's ear, and for simple spite had told him 
that Francis Nicholson of Virginia was being groomed to take his place, 
ere Copley had e'en left London. He said this, I was certain, merely to cause 
friction 'twixt the governors, for he had no love for Nicholson and wanted 
a weak executive in Maryland who would leave his own hands free. This 
strategy of his gave me my own, which was to suggest to Baltimore that he 
should in fact have Nicholson commissioned lieutenant governor of 
Maryland, since word had it he was to be replaced in Jamestown by none 
other than Sir Edmund Andros himself; and farther, that he should then 
name Andros commander-in-chief of the Province, with power to take com- 
mand in the event of Nicholson's death and Copley's absence. Twas a 
fantastical arrangement, inasmuch as Copley mistrusted Nicholson, Nich- 
olson disliked Andros (who had erst been his superior in New England), 
and Coode loathed 'em all! My object was, to so mismatch them that their 
rule would be a farce, to the end that haply someday William might return 
the reins of government to Baltimore. 

"Milord approved the plan, once I had explained it, and, seeing farther I 
had the confidence both of Andros and of Nicholson, he gave me the post 
I wished, with one stipulation only, that it be confidential. Nicholson and 
Andros were commissioned by March of 1692, and the instant Coode heard 
it he took fright: he well knew Copley was too thick to see the evidence of 
his mischief and too weak to harm him if he saw't, and Andros would have 
work enough in Virginia to absorb him; but Nicholson's neither dull nor 
weak and knew Coode already for a rascal. Posthaste he wrote instructions 
to an agent in St. Mary's, to steal the Journal of the 1691 Assembly and 
destroy it, for there was writ the full tale of his government for all to see. I 



[ Ij6 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

heard from friends one Benjamin Ricaud had joined the fleet, and knowing 
him as Coode's messenger, straightway set out after. Twas my good luck he 
boarded the ship Bailey> for her master, Peregrine Browne of Cecil County, 
was a friend of Hill's and Baltimore's, and I knew him well. Moreover, a 
number of our men were there as well; Colonel Coursey, John Lillingstone 
the minister, and others. Between us we contrived to search Ricaud's effects 
and intercept the letter, which I passed along to Baltimore. 

"I resolved at once to sail for Maryland and prevailed on Baltimore to 
let me go on the very ship with Copley. We had one powerful ally in the 
government, Sir Thomas Lawrence, who as His Majesty's Secretary to the 
Province had access to every stamp and paper. Twas my design to have 
him steal the Assembly Journal ere it was destroyed and smuggle it to 
Nicholson, who would in turn then fetch it here to London for our use. I 
was the more eager to lay hands on*t, for that in that document my separate 
goals seemed fused: the search for my father and the search for ways to put 
down Coode were now the selfsame search!" 

"How is that?" asked Ebenezer, who had heard the foregoing in wordless 
amazement. "I do not grasp your meaning in the least/* 

" Twas that note we intercepted," Burlingame replied. "We did not 
know its import at first sight, for't said no mow than Afcington: Such smutt 
as Cttpt John Smiths book were best fed to the fire. 'Abington* we knew 
was Andrew Abington, a fellow in St. Mary's that Coodc had given the 
post of Collector for the Patuxent after John Payne's murther; but we 
could not comprehend the rest. At length I bribed Racaud outright, who 
was a shifty fellow, and he told us 'John Smiths Book' signified the Journal 
of the 1691 Assembly, for that 'twas writ on the back of an old manuscript 
of some sort. For aught I knew it might be but a draft of the Hfetorif I'd 
read in print, but nonetheless I could scarce contain my joy at hearing of it 
and prayed it might make mention of my namesake. Nor was this the end 
of my good fortune, for the note itself was writ on aged paper, not unlike 
that of the Privie JourncOl in Jamestown, and I learned from Ricaud that 
Coode had traveled often in Virginia and had kin that, and that after the 
rebellion he'd given Cheseldyne and Blackistone a batch of old papeis 
filched from Jamestown to use in the Assembly and the St Mary's court. 
For aught I knew, the rest of the Prim Joumtll might be filed somewhere 
in Maryland! 

"As soon as I arrived in St. Mary's City I made myself known to Sir 
Thomas Lawrence and laid open Lord Baltimore's strategy. He was to steal 
the Assembly Journal and pass it on to Nicholson, who wodd find accuse 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 177 ] 

at once to visit London. In addition I meant to discredit as many as possible 
of Coode's associates, and to that end persuaded Lawrence to lure them 
into corruption. Colonel Henry Jowles, for instance,, was a member of the 
Governor's Council and a colonel of milita: we made it easy for him to 
line his pockets with illegal fees as clerk of Calvert County. Baltimore's 
friend Charles Carroll, a Papist lawyer in St. Mary's, did the same with 
Neamiah Blackistone, Coode's own brother-in-law, that was president of 
the Council and Copley's right-hand man. And the grandest gadfly of 'em 
all was Edward Randolph, His Majesty's Royal Surveyor, who loved to bait 
and slander popr old Copley, and spoke openly in favor of King James. 
Finally we terrified the lot of 'em with stories that the French and the 
Naked Indians of Canada were making ready for a general slaughter. In 
June, not a month after we landed, Copley was already complaining of 
Randolph to the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations; in July 
Lawrence filched the Journal, but Nicholson whisked it off to London ere 
I could lay eyes upon it. In October we exposed Colonel Jowles, who was 
turned out as colonel, councilman, and clerk. In December Copley again 
complained of Randolph, and swore to the Lords Commissioners, along 
with Blackistone, that Nicholson was on some sinister errand in London 
which letter greatly pleased us, for we meant to use it to advantage when 
Nicholson himself was governor. 

"Thus we harassed old Copley, who scarce knew what was happening 
till the following February, when the Lords Commissioners charged 
Blackistone with graft. Then, too late, he saw our plot, and in the spring 
of last year arrested Carroll, Sir Thomas himself, Edward Randolph, and a 
host of others, among whom was Peter Sayer of Talbot, the man I was 
disguised as in Ben Bragg's bookshop. Sir Thomas was jailed, as was Carroll, 
and impeached into the bargain; Randolph was arrested on the Eastern 
Shore of Virginia by the Somerset County sheriff, but ere he could get him 
out of Accomac I sent word oft to Edmund Andros in Williamsburg, who'd 
been a drinking-friend of Randolph's since the old days in Boston, and 
Andros fetched him home for safety." 

"E'en so, thy cause was damaged, was it not?" asked Ebenezer. 

"My cause?" Burlingame smiled. " 'Tis thine as well, is't not, since we 
work for the same employer? Let us say instead our cause was discommoded 
for a time; we knew well old Copley couldn't hold such men for long, but 
we wanted them out of prison, not alone for their own comfort but for fear 
John Coode might turn up in their absence and gain ground with Copley. 
As't happened our fears were empty, for both the Governor and his wife 



[ 178 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

died in September methinks they ne'er acclimatized to Maryland, His 

death suggested to me a wondrous mischief " 

"Great heavens, Henry, thou'rt a plotting Coode thyself!" 
"You recall I said Lord Baltimore had made Andros commander-in-chief 
of the Province, merely to play on the jealousy 'twixt him and Nicholson, 
and his commission gave him full authority in the event of Nicholson's 
death and Copley's absence. It struck me now that albeit 'twas Copley 
dead and Nicholson absent, I could work a grand confusion anyhow, and 
so I went posthaste to Williamsburg to take the news to Andros and 
persuade him his commission was in force. He was inclined to doubt it, 
but he knew me for an agent of Lord Baltimore, and loved to exercise his 
power besides. What's more, though he made no mention oft, he was not 
averse to stealing Nicholson's thunder, as't were, by rescuing law and order 
in Maryland, for he himself had felt the pricks of following Nicholson in 
Virginia. To be brief, he marched into St. Mary's City, demanded the 
government of Maryland, dissolved the Assembly, suspended Rlackistone, 
turned Lawrence loose, and took him with his party back to Williamsburg, 
leaving the Province in the charge of an amiable nobody named Green- 
berry, Twas his design to return again this spring, when the business was 
cooled, and make Lawrence president of the Council, but whether he hath 
done it I've yet to learn, 

"I could see no immediate employment for myself in Hie Province after 
this, and so I crossed come January here to London, both to wait farther 
orders from Lord Baltimore and to search out the Assembly Journal I ar- 
rived not two weeks past, and learned to my dismay that neither Nicholson 
nor Baltimore hath the Journal in his possession for fear of Coode's agents, 
who would stop at naught to get it Instead, Lord Baltimore declares, he 
hath broken it into three portions for safekeeping and deposited the several 
portions privily in Maryland, whence I had just cornel I begged of him the 
trustees' names, that I might pursue my innocent search, but he was loath 
to discover them~not Nicholson himself, it seems, knew more than I on 
the matter. But a few days past he said he had a mission for me of such 
importance he could trust it to no other soul; and I replied, surely I was 
not worthy of such trust, if he dared not name me the keepers of the 
Journal Whereat he smiled and said I had him fair, inasmuch as the gravity 
of my new errand outweighed his great reluctance. The pieces of the 
Journal, he said, were in the hands of sundry loyal persons of the surname 
Smith, for reasons I'd no need to ask, and he told me their names in 
greatest confidence. I thanked him and declared I was ready for whatever 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ *79 1 

work he gave me, and he said a young man had called on him that after- 
noon that was a poet,, and he had charged him to write a work in praise of 
Maryland and the proprietorshipthe which, he believed, if nobly done, 
might profit more than ten intrigues to win him back the Province." 

"'Sheart, what a marvelous small world!" Ebenezer cried. "And how 
pleased I am to find he sets such store by poetry! But prithee what work 
was't in this connection, that warranted such concession on his part?" 

"He enquired of me, whether I knew the poet Ebenezer Cooke? My 
heart leaped, for Fd had no word of you or Anna these seven years, but I 
answered merely I had heard mention of a poet by that name but knew 
naught of the man or his work. More than this I thought it imprudent to 
say, ere I'd heard the nature of my errand. Then he told me of your visit 
and proposal, and his commission, and said I should accompany you to 
Maryland for that you'd ne'er before been out of England and act both 
as your guide and your protector. I leave it to you to imagine with what 
readiness I took on the task, and straightway sought you out!" 

Now the earlier portions of this long narrative had elicited from 
Ebenezer such a number of ah's, marry? s, 'sheart's, and b'm'faith's that he 
had come during this last to sit for the most part wordlessly, mouth agape 
and brows a-pucker in a sort of permanent fGod! as one amazement 
tripped on another's heels. At the end he was moved enough to embrace 
Burlingame unashamedly and had, he found, to add bad breath to the 
host of alterations worked on his friend by this seven-year adventure: it was 
no doubt a product of the teeth gone carious. The trifle brought tears to his 
eyes not its pungency, but its poignancy signifying as it did their lengthy 
separation. 

"Ah God," he cried, when he found his voice, "if Anna but knew all 
you've told me! Wherefore this role as Peter Sayer, Henry? Why did you 
not at least reveal yourself in London ere we left, that she might share my 
joy at finding you?" 

Burlingame sighed, and after a moment replied, "I am wont to go by 
names other than my own, either borrowed or invented, for sundry reasons 
stemming from my work. 'Twould do no good for Coode to know my 
name, nor e'en that I exist. What's more, I can confound him and his 
agents: I posed as Sayer in Bragg' s, for instance, and forged his name, merely 
because Coode thinks the man's in Plymouth with the fleet. In like manner 
I've pretended to be both friends and enemies of Baltimore, to advance his 
cause. Once, I shall confess, that time on Perry Browne's ship Bailey, I 
posed as Coode himself to the poor dolt Ben Ricaud, to intercept those 



[ l8o ] ' THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

letters; Ricaud was a London friend of Cheseldyne's and had ne'er seen 
Coode before, for all he'd heard of him. The truth is, Eben, no man save 
Richard Hill, Lord Baltimore,, and yourself hath known my name since 
1687, when first I commenced to play the game of governments; and the 
game itself hath made such changes in me, that none who knew me erst 
would know me now, nor do I mean them to. Tis better they think me 
lost." 

"Yet surely Anna " 

" 'Tis but thy first enquiry I've replied to/* Burlingame interrupted, rais- 
ing his forefinger. "For the second, do not forget that many are bound 
from London for the fleet Coode's men as well as ours, and haply Coode 
himself whether to place themselves under Nicholson's protection or 
work some mischief against him. Twould have been foolish, even perilous, 
to shed my mask in that place. Moreover, there was no time: I scarce caught 
up with you ere you left, and mark how long I've beea discovering myself 
to you. The fleet had sailed without us/* 

"Aye, that's true," Ebenezer admitted. 

"What's more" Burlingame laughed 4 Td not yet made my own mind 
up, whether 'twere wise e'en you should know the truth. 

"What! Think you I'd e'er betray thy trust? And could you thus callously 
deprive me of my only friend? You injure me!" 

"As to the first, 'twas just to answer it I posed as Saycr and queried you 
the years change any man. Ben Bragg had said fchou'rt but an opportunist; 
nor was your servant more persuaded of your motive, for all he admired 
you. Again, how could I know your sentiments towards Burlingame? The 
tale you told to Peter Sayer was your bond; when I had heard it, I revealed 
myself at once, but had you sung a different tune, 'tis Peter Sayer had been 
your guide, not Burlingame/' 

"Enough. I am convinced and cannot tell my joy. Yet your relation 
shames me for my tearfulness and sloth, as doth your wisdom my poor 
talent. Thou'rt a Virgil worth a better Dante," 

"Oh la," Burlingame scoffed, "you've wit enough, and ear, Besides, the 
Province is no Hell or Purgatorio, but just a piece o* the great world like 
England with the difference, haply, that the soil is vast and new where the 
sot-weed hath not drained it and oft will sprout wild seeds of energy in men 
that had lain fallow here. What's more, the reins and checks are few and 
weak; good plants and weeds alike grow tall Do but recall, if the people 
there seem strange and rough: a man content with Europe scarce would 
cross the ocean. The plain fact is, the greatest part are castaways from 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ l8l ] 

Europe, or the sons of castaways: rebels, failures, jailbirds and adventurers. 
Cast such seed on such soil, and 'twere fond to seek a crop of dons and 
courtiers!" 

"Yet you speak as one who loves the place/' said Ebenezer, "and that 
alone, for me, is warrant I shall too." 

Burlingame shrugged another habit apparently picked up in his travels. 
"Haply so, haply no. There is a freedom there that's both a blessing and a 
curse, for't means both liberty and lawlessness. Tis more than just political 
and religious liberty they come and go from one year to the next. Tis 
philosophic liberty I speak of, that comes from want of history. It throws 
one on his own resources, that freedom makes every man an orphan like 
myself and can as well demoralize as elevate. But no more: I see the masts 
and spires of Plymouth yonder. You'll know the Province soon enough and 
how it strikes you!" 

Even as Burlingame spoke the smell of the sea blew into the carriage, 
stirring Ebenezer to the depths of his being, and when a short while later 
he saw it for the first time, spread out before him to the far horizon, he 
shivered twice or thrice all over and came near to passing water in his 
breeches. 



8: THE LAUREATE INDITES A QUATRAIN AND FOULS 
HIS BREECHES 



"REMEMBER," BURLINGAME SAID AS THE CARRIAGE ROLLED INTO PLYM- 
outh, "I am not Henry Burlingame, nor Peter Sayer either, for the real 
Sayer's somewhere on the fleet. You'd best not give me any name at all, I 
think, till I see how lays the land." 

Accordingly, as soon as their chests and trunks were put down they 
inquired after the Poseidon at the wharves and were told it had already 
joined the fleet. 

"What!" cried Ebenezer. "Then we have missed it after alll" 

"Nay," Burlingame smiled, " 'tis not unusual. The fleet assembles yonder 
in the Downs off The Lizard; you can see't from here on a clear day." 

Inquiring further he found a shallop doing ferry-service between the 
Downs and the harbor, and arranged for passage aboard it in the afternoon. 

"We'd as well take one last meal ashore," he explained to Ebenezer. 



[ 182 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Moreover I must change clothing, for I've resolved to pose as your servant 
What was his name?' 7 

"Bertrand," Ebenezer murmured. "But must you be a servant?" 

"Aye, or else invent an entire gentleman as your companion* As Bertrand 
I can pass unnoticed in your company and hear more news as well of your 
fellow travelers." 

So saying he led the way across the street from the wharves to a tavern 
advertising itself by two capital letter Cs> face to face and interlocking, the 
figure surmounted by a three-lobed crown* 

"Here's the King o' the Seas/' said Burlingame "Tis a jolly place, by 
Heav'n. I know it of old/' They stepped inside the door and surveyed the 
room. Burlingame sighed. " 'Twas here I got my first wee clap, while still a 
hand on Captain Salmon's ship. A bony Welsh tart gave it me, that had 
made the best of my inexperience to charge me a clean girl's price, and by 
the time the fraud came clear I was many a day's sail from Plymouth, 
bound for Lisbon. The clap soon left me, but I ne'er forgot the wench* 
When in Lisbon I found a vessel bound for Plymouth and made enquiries 
amongst the crew, till at length I hit upon a one-eyed Portugee that was like 
to perish of a miserable clap from Africa, beside which our English sort was 
but a fleabite. This frightful wight I gave my fine new quadrant to, that 
Captain Salmon had bought me to practice navigation with, on condi- 
tion he share his clap with the Welsh whore at the King o* the Seas directly 
he made port. But no man e'er died of the food here," 

It being midmorning, the tavern was deserted except for a young saving 
maid scrubbing the flagstone floor. She was short and plump, coarse-haired 
and befreckled, but her eyes had a merry light and her nose a pertness, 
Leaving Ebenezer to select a table, Burlingame approached her familiarly 
and engaged her in conversation which, though spoken in voices too low 
for Ebenezer to hear distinctly, soon had her laughing and wagging a finger 
in feigned admonition, 

"The duckling swore she'd naught but fish in the larder/* he said when 
presently he returned, "but when I told her 'twas a lauitsate she was feeding, 
that could lay the place low with Hudibrastics, she agreed to stay year pen 
with roast of beef. Twill be heie anon." 

"You twit me," Ebenezer said modestly. 

Burlingame shmgged. "Methinks Til change costume the while ifs 
fixing. I must ask yonder cherub the way to the privy," 

"But our baggage is on the wharf," 

"No matter. Scotch cloth to silk is oft a life-time's journey, but sflk to 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 183 ] 

Scotch cloth can be traversed in a minute." He went again to the serving 
maid, who smiled at his approach, and spoke oftly to her, at the same 
time pinching her smartly. She squealed in mock protest and, one hand 
on her hip, pointed laughing to a door beside the fireplace. Burlingame 
then took her arm as though to lead her along with him; when she drew 
back he whispered seriously in her ear and whispered again when she gasped 
and shook her head. She glanced towards Ebenezer, who blushed at once 
and feigned preoccupation with the set of his cravat; Burlingame whispered 
a third message that turned her bright eyes coyly, and left the room through 
the indicated door. The girl lingered for two minutes in the room. Then 
she took another sharp look at Ebenezer, sniffed, and flounced through 
the same door. 

Though he was not a little embarrassed by the small drama, the poet was 
pleased enough to be alone for a short while, not only to ponder the 
wondrous adventures of his friend, which had been two days in the telling 
(and the vast reaches of terra incognita he had glimpsed in the character 
of the man he thought he'd known entire), but also to take stock of his 
own position; to reflect a final time on the grand adventure into which 
he'd flung himself and the marvelous step he was about to take. 

"I have been so occupied gaping and gasping at Henry," said he to him- 
self, "I have near forgot who I am, and what business I'm embarked upon. 
Not a line have I writ since London, nor thought at all of logging my 
journey/' 

He forthwith spread before him on the table his ever-present double- 
entry ledger, open to that page whereon was transcribed the first quatrain 
of his official career, and fetching quill and ink from a stand on the wall 
next the serving-bar, considered what should grace the facing-page. 

"I can say naught whate'er of my journey hither, in the Marylandiad" 
he reflected, "for I saw but little oft. Moreover, *twere fitter I commenced 
the poem from Plymouth,, where most who sail to Maryland take their 
leave of Albion's rocks; 'twill pitch the teader straightway on his voyage/' 
Pursuing farther this line of thought, he resolved to write his epn 
Marylandiad in the form of an imaginary voyage, thinking thereby to dis 
cover to the reader the delights of the Province with the same freshnes' 
and surprise wherewith they would discover themselves to the voyager-poet. 
It was with pleasure and a kind of awe, therefore, that he recalled the name 
of his ship. 

"Poseidonl" he thought, "It bodes well, f faith! A very Virgil for com- 



[ 184 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

panion, and the Earth-Shaker himself for fenymaster to this Elysium! What 
ill can befall who sails in such company?'* 

And turning the happy figure some minutes in his mind, at length he 
wrote: 

Let Ocean roar his damn'dest Gate: 

Our Planks shan't leak; our Masts shan't fo& 

With great Poseidon at our Side 

He seemeth neither wild nor wide. 

At the foot he appended E.G., G**\ P* & L? of M*, and beamed with 
satisfaction. 

"Naught succeedeth like success" he declared to himself, 
While he was thus engaged, two men came into the tavern and noisily 
closed the door. They were sailors, by the look of them but not ordinary 
seamen and like enough for twins in manner and appearance: both were 
short and heavy, red-nosed, squint-eyed, and black-whiskered, and wore their 
natural hair; both were dressed in black breeches and coats, and sported 
twin-peaked hats of the same color. Each wore a brace of pistols at his right, 
stuck down through his sash, and a cutlass at his left, and carried besides a 
heavy black cane, 

"Thou'rt my guest for beer, Captain Scuny," growled one 
"Nay, Captain Slye," growled the other, "for thou' it mine;* 
With that, still standing, they both commenced to bang their sticks upon 
a table for service. "Beerl" one cried, and "Beer!" cried the other, and they 
glowered, scowled, and grumbled when their cries brought no response. 
So fearsome was their aspect, and fierce their manner, Ebenezer decided 
they were pirate captains, but he had not the courage to 8ce the room. 
"Beer/" they called again, and again smote the table with their sticks to 
no avail Ebenezer buried himself in his notebook, spread out before him 
on the table, and prayed they'd take no notice of his presence. He knew 
well, from the History of the Buccaneer*, that pirates were moved to 
violence by the merest trifles; the simple fact of one's presence or the cut 
of one's wig, if their mood was delicate, could provoke them to murder. He 
damned the serving girl for her absence. 

" Tis my suspicion, Captain Slye," one of them said, "that we must serve 
ourselves or seek our man with dry throats." 

"Then let us draw our beer and have done with't, Captain Scurry," re- 
plied the other. 'The rascal can't be far away, 1 shall dw two steins, and 
haply he'll come in ere we've drunk 'em off," 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 185 ] 

"Haply, haply/' the first allowed. "But 'tis I shall draw the steins, for 
thou'rt my guest." 

"The devil on 7 t!" cried the second. " 'Twas I spake first, and thou'rt my 
guest, God damn ye!" 

"I'll see thee first in Hell," said Number One. "The treat is mine." 

"Mine!" said Number Two, more threateningly. 

"Thine in a pig's arse!" 

"I shall draw thy beer, Captain Slye," said Number Two, fetching out a 
pistol, "or draw thy blood." 

"And I thine," said Number One, doing likewise, "else thou'rt a banquet 
for the worms." 

"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" Ebenezer cried. "In Heav'n's name hold thy 
fire!" 

Instantly he regretted his words. The two men turned to glare at him, 
still pointing pistols at each other, and their expressions grew so menacing 
that Ebenezer trembled. 

" Tis none of my affair," he said hastily, for they began moving toward 
him. "Not the least of my affair, I grant that. What I meant to say was, 
'twould be an honor and a pleasure to me to buy for both of you, and draw 
as well, if you'll but show me how. Nay, no matter, I'll wager I can do't 
right off, with no instruction,, for many's the time in Locket's I've seen it 
done. Aye," he went on, backing away from them, "there's naught of skill 
or secret to't but this, to edge the glass against the tap if the keg be wild and 
let the beer slide gently in; or be't flat, allow the stream some space to fall 
ere't fill the glass, that striking harder 'twill foam the more " 

"Cease!" commanded Number One, and fetched the table such a clap 
of the cane that Ebenezer's notebook jumped. "I'God, Captain Slye, did 
e'er ye hear such claptrap?" 

"Nor such impertinence, Captain Scurry/' answered the other, "that not 
content to meddle in our business, the knave would have't all his own." 

"Nay, gentlemen, you mistake me!" Ebenezer cried. 

"Prithee close thy mouth and sit," said Captain Scurry, pointing with his 
stick to the poet's chair. Then to his companion he declared, "Ye must 
excuse me while I put a ball 'twixt this ninny's eyes." 

"Twill be my pleasure," the other replied, "and then we'll drisk in 
peace." Both pistols now were aimed at Ebenezer. 

"No guest of mine shall stoop to such mean trifles," said the first. Ebene- 
zer, standing behind his chair, looked again to the door through which 
Burlingaine and the serving maid had passed. 



[ 186 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"My sentiments exactly/' growled Captain Slyc^ "but pray recall who's 
host, or 'tis two pistols I shall fire/' 

" Tore God, good Captains!" Ebenezer croaked, but legs and sphincters 
both betrayed him; unable to say on, he sank with wondrous odor to his 
knees and buried his face in the seat of his chair- At that instant the rear 
door opened. 

"Stay, here's the barmaidr cried Captain Scurry. "Fetch me two beeis, 
lass, while I jettison this stinkard!" 

"Beers be damnedl" roared Captain Slye, who had a view of the en- 
trance door. "Yonder goes our Laureate, I swear, along the street!" 

"I'faith let's at him, then/' said the other, "ere he onoe more slips his 
mooring!" 

Turning their backs on bear and poet alike they hurried out to the street, 
from which came shortly the sound of pistols and a retreating clamor of 
curses. But Ebenezer heard them not, for at mention of their quarry he 
swooned dead away upon the tavern flags* 



9: FURTHER SEA-POETRY, COMPOSED IN THE STABLES 
OF THE KING Q> THE SEAS 



WHEN HE REGAINED HIS SENSES EBENEZER FOUND HIMSELF IN THE 

stables of the King o' the Seas, lying in the hay; his friend Burlingame, 
dressed in Scotch cloth, squatted at his hip and fanned his face with the 
double-entry ledger. 

"I was obliged to fetch you outside/' said Heniy with a smile, "else you'd 
have driven away the clients/" 

"A pox upon the clients!" the poet said weakly. "Twas a pair of their 
clients brought me to this pass!" 

"Are you your own man now, or shall I fan thcc farther?" 

"No farther, prithee, at least from where you stand, or I'll succumb en- 
tirely." He moved to sit up, made a sour face, and lay back with a sigh, 

"The fault is mine, Eben; had I known aught of your urgency I'd not 
have lingered such a time in yonder privy. How is*t you did not use this hay 
instead? Tis no mean second." 

"I cannot make light off Ebenezer declared 'The white you sported 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 187 ] 

with the wench, two pirate captains had like to put a ball betwixt my eyes, 
for no more cause than that I ventured to settle their quarrel!" 

"Pirate captains!" 

"Aye, I'm certain oft," Ebenezer insisted. Tve read enough in 
Esquemeling to know a pirate when I see one: ferocious fellows as like as 
twins; they were dressed all in black, with black beards and walking sticks." 

"Why did you not declare your name and office?" Burlingame asked. 
44 'Tis not likely they'd dare molest you then." 

Ebenezer shook his head. "I thank Heav'n I did not, for else my life had 
ended on the spot. Twas the Laureate they sought, Henry, to kill and 
murther him!" 

"Nay! But why?" 

"The Lord alone knows why; yet I owe my life solely to some poor wight, 
that walking past the window they took for me and gave him chase. Past 
that I know naught. Pray God they missed him and are gone for good!*' 

"Belike they are," Burlingame said. "Pirates, you say! Well, 'tis not im- 
possible, after all But say, thou'rt all beshit and must be scrubbed." 

Ebenezer groaned. "Ignominy! How waddle to the wharf in this condi- 
tion, to fetch clean breeches?" 

"Marry, I said naught o' waddling, sir," said Burlingame, in the tones of 
a country servant. "Only fetch off thy drawers and breeches now, that me 
little Dolly maught clean 'em out, and I shall bring ye fresh 'uns." 

"Dolly?" 

"Aye, Joan Freckles yonder in the King o' the Seas." 

Ebenezer blushed. "And yet she is a woman, for all her harlotry, and I 
the Laureate of Maryland! I cannot have her hear oft." 

"Hear oft!" Burlingame laughed. "You've near suffocated her already! 
Who was it found you on the floor, d'ye think, and helped me fetch you 
hither? Off with 'em now, Master Laureate, and spare me thy modesty. 
'Twas a woman wiped thy bum at birth and another shall in dotage: what 
matter if one do't in between?" And Ebenezer having undone his buttons 
with reluctance, his friend made bold to give a mighty jerk, and the poet 
stood exposed* 

"La now/' cEuickled Burlingame. "Thou'rt fairly made, if somewhat 
fouled." 

"I die of shame and cannot even cover myself for filth," the poet com- 
plained. "Do make haste, Henry, ere someone find me thus!" 

"1 shall, for be't man or maid you'd not stay virgin long, I swear, thou'rt 
that fetching/' He laughed again at Ebenezer's misery and gathered up 



[ l88 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the soiled garments. "Adieu, now: thy servant will return anon, if the 
pirates do not get him. Make shift to clean your self in the meantime. 

"But prithee, how?" 

Burlingame shrugged. "Only look about, good sir. A clever man is never 
lost for long." And off he went across the yard to the rear of the King o' 
the Seas, calling for Dolly to come get his prize. 

Ebenezer at cJnce looked about him for some means to remedy his un- 
happy condition. Straw he rejected at once, though there was enough and 
to spare of it in the stable: it could not even be clenched in the hand with 
comfort. Next he considered his fine holland handkerchief and remem- 
bered that it was in his breeches pocket 

" Tis as well," he judged on second thought, "for it hath a murtherous 
row of great French buttons." 

Nor could he sacrifice his coat, shirt, or stockings, for he lacked on the 
one hand clothes enough to throw away, and on the other courage enough 
to give the barmaid further laundry, "A clever man is never lost for long," 
he repeated to himself, and regarding next the tail of a great bay gelding 
in a stall behind him, rejected it on the grounds that its altitude and posi- 
tion rendered it at once inaccessible and dangerous. "What doth this teach 
us," he reflected with pursed lips, "if not that one man's wit is poor indeed? 
Fools and wild beasts live by mother wit and learn from experience; the 
wise man learns from the wits and lives of others. Marry, is't for naught ! 
spent two years at Cambridge, and three times two with Henry in my 
father's summerhouse? If native wit can't save me, then education shall!" 

Accordingly he searched his education for succor, beginning with his 
memory of history. "Why should men prize the records of the past," he 
asked, "save as lessons for the present? Twene an idle pastime else," Yet 
though he was no stranger to Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Suetonius, 
Sallust, and other chroniclers ancient and modern, he couW recall in them 
no precedent for his present plight, and thus no counsel, and had at length 
to give over the attempt u Tis clear," he concluded, "that History teacheth 
not a man, but mankind; her muse's pupil is the body politic or its leaders. 
Nay, more," he reasoned further, shivering a bit in the breeze off the 
harbor, "the eyes of Clio are like the eyes of snakes, that can see naught but 
motion: she marks the rise and fall of nations, but of things immutable- 
eternal verities and timeless problems she rightly takes no notice, for fear 
of poaching on Philosophy's preserve/* 

Next, therefore, he summoned to mind as much as ever he could of 
Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno, Augustine* Thomas Aquinas, and the *est> not 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 189 ] 

forgetting his Platonfcal professors and their one-time friend Descartes; but 
though they'd no end of interest in whether his plight was real or fancied, 
and whether it merited concern sub specie aeternitatis, and whether his 
future action with regard to it was already determined or entirely in his 
hands, yet none advanced specific counsel. "Can it be they all shat syllo- 
gisms, that have nor stench nor stain/' he wondered, "and naught besides? 
Or is't that no fear travels past their Reason, to ruin their breeches withal?" 
The truth of the matter was, he decided, peering across the court in vain for 
Henry, that philosophy dealt with generalities, categories, and abstractions 
alone, like More's eternal spissitude, and spoke of personal problems only 
insofar as they illustrated general ones; in any case, to the best of his 
recollection it held no answer for such homely, practical predicaments as 
his own. 

He did not even consider physics, astronomy, and the other areas of 
natural philosophy, for the same reason; nor did he crack his memory on 
the plastic arts, for he knew full well no Phidias or Michelangelo would 
deign to immortalize a state like his, whatever their attraction for human 
misery. No, he resolved at last, it was to literature he must turn for help, 
and should have sooner, for literature alone of all the arts and sciences took 
as her province the entire range of man's experience and behavior from 
cradle to grave and beyond, from emperor to hedge-whore, from the burn- 
ing of cities to the breaking of wind and human problems of every 
magnitude: in literature alone might one find catalogued with equal care 
the ancestors of Noah, the ships of the Achaians 

"And the bum-swipes of Garg^ntual" he exclaimed aloud. "How is't I . 
did not think of them till now?" He reviewed with joy that chapter out of 
Rabelais wherein the young Gargantua tries his hand, as it were, at sundry 
swabs and wipers not in desperation, to be sure, but in a spirit of pure 
empiricism, to discover the noblest for good and all and awards the prize 
at last to the neck of a live white goose; but hens and guineas though there 
were a-plenty in the yard around the stable, not a goose could Ebenezer 
spy. "Nor were't fit," he decided a moment later, somewhat crestfallen, 
"save in a comic or satiric book, to use a silly fowl so hardly, that anon must 
perish to please our bellies. Good Rabelais surely meant it as a jest." In like 
manner, though with steadily mounting consternation, he considered what 
other parallels to his circumstances he could remember from what literature 
he had read, and rejected each in turn as inapplicable or irrelevant. Litera- 
ture too, he concluded with heavy heart, availed him not, for though it 
afforded one a certain sophistication about life and a release from one's 



[ 190 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

single mortal destiny, it did not, except accidentally, afford solutions to 
practical problems. And after literature, what else remained? 

He recalled John McEvoy's accusation that he knew nothing of the en- 
tire great real world and the actual people in it. What, in fact, he asked 
himself, would others do in his place, who did know the great real world? 
But of such knowledgeable folk he knew but two at all well Burlingarne 
and McEvoy and it was unthinkable of either that they would ever be 
in his place. Yet knowledge of the world, he quite understood, went further 
than personal acquaintance: how fared the savage hordes and heathen peo- 
ples of the earth, who never saw a proper bum-swab? The Arabs of the 
desert, who had no forest leaves nor any paper? Surely they contrived a 
measure of cleanliness in some wise,, else each perforce would live a hermit 
and the race die out in a single generation. But of all the customs and 
exotic practices of which he'd heard from Burlingame or read in his youth- 
ful books of voyages and gravel, only one could he remember that was to 
the point; the peasant folk of India, Burlingame had once observed to 
him, ate with their right hands only, inasmuch as the left was customarily 
used for personal cleanliness. 

44 Tis no solution, but a mere postponement of my difficulties," the poet 
sighed, "What hope hath he for other aid, whom wit and the world have 
both betrayed?" 

He started, and despite the discomfort of his position, glowed with 
pleasure when he recognized the couplet* "Whate'er my straits, I still am 
virgin and poet! What hope hath he , , . Would Heav'n I'd ink and quill, 
to pen him ere he cools!" He resolved in any case to dog-ear a leaf in his 
notebook as a reminder to set down the couplet later; it was not until the 
volume was spread open in his hands, and he was leafing through its empty 
pages, that he saw in it what none of his previous efforts had led him to. 

"Tis a propitious omen, b'm'faith!" said he, not a little awed. He 
regretted having torn out in the London posthouse those sheets in the 
ledger on which Ben Bragg had kept his accounts, not only because his 
years with Peter Paggen had soured his taste for the world of debit and 
credit, but also because he remembered how scarce was paper in the 
provinces, and so was loath to waste a single sheet* Indeed, so very reluctant 
was he, for a moment he seriously considered tearing out instead what few 
pages he'd already rhymed on: his Hymn to Chastity, the little quatrain 
recalled to him by Burlingame, and his preliminary salute to the ship 
Pow'don. Only the utter impropriety, the virtual sacrilege of the deed, 
restrained his hand and kd him at length to use two fresh and virgin sheets 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 191 ] 

and then two morefor the work, which completed with no small labor, 
owing to the drying effect of the breeze, he turned into an allegory thus: 
the unused sheets were songs unborn, which yet had power, as it were in 
utero, to cleanse and ennoble him who would in time deliver them in 
short, the story of his career to date. Or they were token of his double 
essence, called forth too late to prevent his shame but able still to cleanse 
the leavings of his fear. Or again but his pleasant allegorizing was broken 
off by the appearance, from the rear of the King o' the Seas, of befreckled 
Dolly, bringing his drawers and breeches out to dry. Despite his embarrass- 
ment he craned his head around the stable entrance and inquired after 
Burlingame, who had by this time been absent for nearly an hour; but the 
woman professed to know nothing of his whereabouts. 

"Yet 'twas but across the street he went!" Ebenezer protested. 

"I know naught oft/' Dolly said stubbornly, and turned to go. 

"Wait!" the poet called 

"Well?" 

He blushed. "Tis something chill out here might you fetch me a 
blanket from upstairs, or other covering, against my man's return?" 

Dolly shook her head. " Tis not a service of the house, sir, save to them 
as stop the night. Your man paid me a shilling for the breeches, but naught 
was said of blankets." 

"Plague take thee!" Ebenezer cried, in his wrath almost forgetting to 
conceal himself. "Was Midas e'er so greedy as a woman? You'll get thy 
filthy shilling anon, when my man appears!" 

"No penny, no paternoster" the girl said pertly. "I have no warrant 
he'll appear." 

"Thy master shall hear of this impertinencel" 

She shrugged, Burlingame-like. 

"A toddy, then, i'God, or coffee, ere I take ill! 'Sheart, girl, I am " 

He checked himself, remembering the pirate captains. "Tis a gentleman 
that asks you, not a common sailor!" 

"Were't King William himself he'd have not a sip on credit at lie King 
o' the Seas." 

Ebenezer gave over the attempt, "If I must catch my death in this foul 
stable/' he sighed, "might you at least provide me ink and quill, or is that 
too no service of the house?" 

"Ink and quill are free for all to use," Dolly allowed, and shortly brought 
them to the stable door. 



t 192 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Ye must use your own book to scribble in," she declared- "Paper's too 
dear to throw away," 

"And I threatened you with your master! Marry, thou'rt his fortune!" 
Alone again, he set on the dog-eared page of his ledger book that 
aphoristic couplet which had so aided him, and would have tried his hand 
at further verses, but the discomfort of his situation made creation impos- 
sible. The passage of time alarmed him: the sun passed the meridian and 
began its fall toward the west; soon, surely, it would be time to board the 
shallop which was to feny them to the Poseidon, and still there was no 
sign of Burlingame. The wind changed direction, blew more directly off 
the harbor and into the stable, and chilled the poet through. At length he 
was obliged to seek shelter in an empty stall nearby, where enough fresh 
hay was piled to cover his legs and hips when he sat in it* Indeed, after his 
initial distaste he found himself warm and comfortable enough, if still a 
trifle apprehensive as much for Burlingame's welfare as for his own, for he 
readily imagined his friend's having fallen afoul of the pirate captains. Re- 
solving to cheer himself with happier thoughts (and at the same time fight 
against the drowsiness that his relative comfort induced at once) be turned 
again to that page in his notebook which borer the Poseidon quatrain. And 
for all he'd never yet laid eyes upon that vessel, aftet some deliberation he 
joined to the first quatrain a second, which called her frankly 

A noble Ship, from Deck to Pdte, 
Akin to those that Homers Creeks 
Satfd east to Troy in Day* of Yow, 



From here it was small labor to extend the tribute to captain and crew 
as well, though in truth he'd met no seafaring men in his life save 
Burlingame and the fearsome piiate captains. Giving himself wholly to the 
muse, and rejecting quatrains for stanzas of a length befitting the pfc he 
wrote on: 

Our Captain, like a briny God, 
Beside the Helm did pace and plod, 
And shouted Orders at the Sty, 
Where doughty Seamen, Mat-top Aigfc, 
Unfurl'd and furl'd our migfity Sob, 
To catch the Winds but miss the Gal* . 
O noble, $dty Tritons Race, 
Who br<m the wild Atlaatics Fae* 
And reckless best both Wind and Tide: 
God bless th*e> Ltd*, fm Albioos 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 193 ] 

In a kind of reverie he saw himself actually aboard the Poseidon, dry- 
breeched and warm, his gear safely stowed below. The sky was brilliant. 
A fresh wind from the east raised whitecaps in the sparkling ocean, 
threatened to lift his hat and the hats of the cordial gentlemen with whom 
he stood in converse on the poop, and fanned from red to yellow the coals 
of good tobacco in their pipes. With what grace did the crewmen race aloft 
to make sail! To what a chorus did the anchor rise dripping from the bottom 
of the sea and the mighty ship make way! The gentlemen held their hats, 
peered down at the wave of foam beneath the sprit and up at the sea birds 
circling off the yards, squinted their eyes against sun and spray, and laughed 
in awe at the scrambling sailors. Anon a steward from below politely made 
a sign, and all the gay company retired to dinner in the Captain's quarters. 
Ebenezer sat at that worthy's right,, and no wit was sharper than his, nor 
any hunger. But what a feast was laid before them! Dipping his quill ag&in, 
he wrote: 

Ye ask, What eat our merry Band 
En Route to lovely MARYLAND? 
I answer: Ne'er were such Delights 
As met our Sea~$harp'd Appetites 
E'er serv'd to Jove and Junos Breed 
By Vulcan and by Ganymede. 

There was more to be said, but so sweeter was the dream than its articula- 
tion, and so thorough his fatigue, he scarce could muster gumption to 
Subscribe the usual E.G., G w *, P* & V of M* before his eyes completely 
closed, his head nodded forward, and he knew no more. 

It seemed but a moment that he slept; yet when roused by the noise of a 
groom leading a horse into the stable, he observed with alarm that the sun 
was well along in the western sky: the square of light from the doorway 
stretched almost to where he sat in the straw. He leaped up, remembered 
his semi-nudity, and snatched a double handful of straw to cover himself. 

"The jakes is there across the yard, sir," the boy said, not visibly sur- 
prised, "though I grant 'tis little sweeter than this stable/' 

"Nay, you mistake me, lad But no matter. See you those drawers and 

breeches on yonder line? 'Twill be a great service to me if you will feel of 
them, whether they be dry, and if so, fetch them hither with all haste, for I 
must catch a ferry to the Downs/' 

The young man did as instructed, and soon Ebenezer was able to leave 
the stable behind him at last and run with all possible speed to the wharf, 
searching as he ran for Burlingame or the two pirate captains into whose 



[ 194 3 THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

clutches he feared his friend had fallen. When he reached the wharf, 
breathless, he found to his dismay that the shallop was already gone and 
his trunk with it, though Burlingame's remained behind on the pier exactly 
where it had been placed that morning. His heart sank. 

An old mariner sat nearby on a coil of rope belonging to the shallop, 
smoking a long clay pipe* 

"I say, sir, when did the shallop sail?" 

"Not half an hour past/' the old man said, not troubling to turn his 
eyes, "Ye can spy her yet/' 

"Was there a short fellow among the passengers* that wore" he was 
ready to describe Burlingame's port-purple coat, but remembered in time 
his friend's disguise "that called himself Bertrand Burton, a servant of 
mine?" 

"None that I saw. No servants at all, that I saw/* 

"But why did you leave this trunk ashore and freight its neighbor?** 
Ebenezer demanded. "They were to go together to the Poseidon/* 

" Twas none o' my doing," said the mariner with g shrug, "Mr, Cooke 
took his with him when he sailed; the other man sails tonight on a different 
ship/' 

"Mr. Cooke!" cried Ebeneser. He was about to protest that he himself 
was Ebenezer Cooke, Laureate of Maryland, but thought better of it: in 
the first place, the pirates might still be searching for him the old mariner, 
for all he knew, might be in their mysterious employ; Cooke, moreover, 
was a surname by no means rare, and the whole thing could well be no 
more than a temporary confusion. 

"Yet, surely/' he ended by saying, "the man was not Ei*nwr Cooke, 
Laureate of Maryland?" 

But the old man nodded "Twas that same gentleman, the poetical 
wight" 

"Ffaithr 

"He wore black breeches like your own," the sailor volunteered, "and a 
purple coat none o' the cleanest, for all his lofty post" 

"Burlingamel" the poet gasped, 

"Nay, CooSe it was. A sort of poet, crossing on the Po&idon" 

But for what cause would his friend assume his name and leave him 
stranded in the stable of the King o' the Seas? Ebeneaer could not 
fathom it 

'Then prithee," he asked, with some difficulty and no little apprehension, 
"who might that second gentleman be^ the owner of this tiunk here, that 
sails tonight on a different vessel?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 195 ] 

The old man sucked his pipe. "He'd not the dress of a gentleman/' he 
declared at length, "nor yet a gentleman's face, but rather a brined and 
weathered look, like any sailor. The others called him Captain, and he them 
likewise." 

Ebenezer paled. "Not Captain Slye?" he asked fearfully. 
"Aye, now you mention it," the old man said, "there was a Captain Slye 
among their number." 
"And Scurry too?" 

"Aye, Slye and Scurry they were, as like as twins. They and the third 
came seeking the poetical gentleman not five full minutes after he'd sailed, 
as you've come seeking them. But they went no farther than the nearest 
house for rum, where 'tis likely you'll find 'em yet." 

In spite of himself Ebenezer cried "Heav'n forfend!" and glanced with 
terror across the street. 

The old man shrugged again and spat into the harbor. "Haply there's 
company more proper than sailors ashore," he allowed, "but none more 

merry Out on't!" he interrupted himself. "You've but to read the name 

from off his baggage there, where he wrote it not ten minutes past I've not 
the gift of letters myself, else I had thought oft ere now." 

Ebenezer examined his friend's trunk at once and found on one handle 
a bit of lettered pasteboard: C^* /"* Coode. 

"Nay!" His legs betrayed him; he was obliged to sit on the trunk or dis- 
grace anew his fresh-dried drawers. "Tell me not 'twas Black John Coode!" 
"Black or white, John or Jim, 'twas Coode," the other affirmed: "Captain 
Slye, Captain Scurry, and Captain Coode. They're yonder in the King o' 
the Seas." 

Suddenly Ebenezer understood all, though his understanding little 
calmed his fear: Burlingame, after learning from Ebenezer in the stable 
about the pirates and their quarry, had spied them and perhaps Coode as 
well in the neighborhood of the tavern and realized that a plot was afoot 
against his charge who as Laureate to Lord Baltimore was after all a potent, 
even a potentially deadly enemy to their seditious schemes, for the exposure 
of which few better tools existed than the knife-edged Hudibrastic. What 
nobler course, then, or more in the spirit of faithful guardianship, than to 
change to his original clothes again, declare himself the Laureate (since, 
clearly, they knew not their victim's face), and throw them off the scent 
by apparently embarking, trunk and all, for the Poseidon? It was a stratagem 
worthy of both the courage and the resourcefulness of his friend: an 
adventure equal to his escape from the pirate Thomas Pound or his 
interception of the letters from Benjamin RicaudI Moreover, it had been 



[ 196 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

accomplished at the risk of his own possessions, which Coode seemed now 
to have appropriated. The poet's heart wanned: the solicitude, the brave 
self-abnegation of his friend brought moisture to his eyes. 

"And to think/' thought he^ "I was the while misdoubting him from the 
safety of my horse stalll" 

Very well, he resolved: he would show himself worthy of such high re- 
gard. "How is't you gave this Coode leave to claim my trunk?" he 
demanded of the old seafarer, who had returned to his pipe and meditations. 

"Thy trunk, sir?" 

"My trunk! Are you blind as well as unlettered, that you failed to see the 
Laureate and me this morning when we had our trunks put down from the 
London carriage?" 

"Marry, I know naught oft," the old man declared. "Tis my Joseph 
sails the shallop, my son Joseph, and I but mind the berth til! he returns." 

"And leave your client's trunks to any rogue that claims them? A proper 
ferryman you are, and your Joseph, b'm'faithl This wretch John Coode 
deigns not even to counterfeit, but with your aid robs openly in broad 
daylight, and by's own name! I'll have the sheriff!" 

"Nay, prithee, sir!" the other cried, "My boy knew naught oft, I swear, 
nor did I think to aid a robber! The meny captains strode up bold as 
brass, sir, and asked for the poetical gentleman, and said This chest is 
Captain Coode's and must be on the Morphides, by sundown, for the Isle 
of Man/" 

"And stopped thy questions with a guinea, I doubt not?" 

'Two bob," the sailor answered humbly. "How might I know the baggage 
wasn't his?" 

"Tis compounding the felony in any case," Ebeaezer declared "Is't 
worth two bob to breathe your last in prison?" 

By dint of this and similar threats Ebenezer soon pemiaded the old sailor 
of his error. "Yet how may I know 'tis thine, sir," he nevertheless inquired, 
"now youVe raised the question? Haply 'tis thou'rt the thie^ and not 
Captain Coode, and who shall save me then from jail?" 

'The trunk is mine in trust alonV the poet replied, "to see it safely to 
my master," 

Thou'rt a servingman, and chide me so?" The sailor set his whiskered 
jaw. "Who might your master b^ that dresses Ws maa like any St Paul's 
fop?" 7 

Ebenezer ignored the slur, "He is that same poetical gentleman who 
took the first trunk with him Ebenezer Coofce, the Lauieate of MaiylaacL 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 197 ] 

And 'twill go hard for you and your loutish Joseph should he speak of this 
nonsense in the right places/' 

"I' God, then take the accursed box for all of me!" the poor man cried, 
and promised to send trunk and servant together to the Poseidon as soon 
as the shallop returned. "Yet prithee show me just one proof or token of 
your post/' he begged, "to ease my heart: for how shall I fare at the hands 
of the three captains, if thou'rt the thief and they the owners?" 

"Never fear/' Ebenezer said. "I shall show you proof enough in two 
minutes: page upon page of the Laureate's writing." He had just remem- 
bered, with a mixture of concern and relief, that his notebook was yet in 
the horse stall. But the old man shook his head. "Were't branded on your 
arse in crimson letters or graven like the Tables of the Law I'd not make 
ftog nor dog oft." 

"Try my patience no more, old man!" the poet warned. "The veriest 
numskull knows a poem by the look oft, whether he grasp the sense or no. 
I'll show you verses fit for the ears of the gods, and there's an end to your 
caviling!" Charging the mariner as sternly as he could to safeguard 
Burlingame's trunk and to ready the shallop, should it return, for instant 
sailing, he made his way in a great arc across the street, giving a wide berth 
to the entrance of the King o' the Seas, traversed again the alleyway leading 
to the back yard of the ordinary, and with pounding heart re-entered the 
familiar stable, expecting at any moment to meet tie horrendous trio of 
captains. He hastened to the stall in which he'd composed his nautical 
verses: there in the straw, where in embarrassment and haste he'd left it, 
was the precious ledger. He snatched it up. Had that stableboy, perhaps, 
defaced it, or filched a sheaf of pages? No, it was intact, and in good order. 

"And reckless best both Wind and Tide" he quoted from the page, and 
sighed with pleasure at his own artistry. "It hath the very sound of toss and 
tempest!" 

But there was no time then for such delights; the shallop might be moor- 
ing at that very moment, and the villains in the tavern would not drink 
rum forever. With all possible speed he scanned the remaining stanza of 
the morning those seven or eight couplets describing the shipboard feast. 
He sighed again,, tucked the book under his arm, and hurried out of the 
stable into the courtyard. 

"Stay, Master Poet, or thou'rt dead," said a voice behind him, and he 
whirled about to face a brace of black-garbed fiends from Hell, each with 
his left hand leaning on an ebon cane and his right aiming a pistol at the 
poet's chest. 

"Doubly dead," the other added. 



[ 198 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTO* 

Ebenezer could not speak. 

''Shall I send a ball through his Romish heart, Captain Scurry, and spare 
ye the powder?" 

"Nay, thankee, Captain Stye," replied the other, "Twas Captain 
Coode's desire to see whatever queer fish might strike the bait, ere we have 
his gullet. But the pleasure's thine when that hour comes," 

'Tour servant, Captain Scurry," said Captain Siye* "Inside with ye* 
Cooke, or my ball's in thy belly," 

But Ebenezer could not move. At length, belting their pistols as un- 
necessary, his fearsome escorts took each an elbow and propelled him, half 
a-swoon, to the rear door of the ordinary. 

"For God's sake spare mel" he croaked, his eyes shut fast 

" 'Tis not that gentleman can do't>" said one of his captors. *The man 
we're fetching ye to is the man to dicker with." 

They entered into a kind of pantry or storage room* and one of his 
captors the one called Stye went ahead to open another door, which led 
into the steamy kitchen of the King o* the Seas. 

"Ahoy, John Coode!" he bellowed. "We've caught ye your poet!" 

Ebenezer then was given such a push from behind that he slipped on 
the greasy tiles and fell asprawl beside a round table in the center of the 
room, directly at the feet of the man who sat them. Everyone laughed: 
Captain Scurry, who had pushed him; Captain Slye, who stood nearby; 
some woman whom, since her feet dangled just before his eyes, Ebenezer 
judged to be sitting in Coode's lap; and Coode himself. Tremblingly the 
poet looked up and saw that the woman was the fickle Dolly, who sat with 
her arms about the archfiend's neck. 

Then, as fearfully as though expecting Lucifer himself, he turned his 
eyes to John Coode, What he saw was, if rather less horrendous, not a whit 
less astonishing: the smiling face of Henry Burlingame. 



10: THE LAUREATE SUFFERS LITERARY CRITICISM 
AND BOARDS THE POSEIDON 



His friend's smile vanished. He pushed the barmaid off his lap, sprang 
scowling to his feet, and pulled Ebenezer up by his shirtfroat 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 199 ] 

"You blockhead!" he said angrily, before the poet could say more, "Who 
gave ye leave to sneak about the stables? I told ye to scour the docks for 
that fool poet!" 

Ebenezer was too surprised to speak. 

''This is my man Henry Cook," Burlingame said to the black captains. 
"Can ye not tell a poet from a common servant?" 

"Your man?" cried Captain Scurry. "I'faith, 'tis the same shitten puppy 
was annoying us this morning is't not, Captain Slye?" 

"Aye and it is," said Captain Slye. "What's more, he was scribbling in 
that very book there, that ye claim is the poet's." 

Burlingame turned on Ebenezer again, raising his hand. "I've a mind 
to box thy lazy ears! Idling in a tavern when I ordered ye to the docks! 
Small wonder the Laureate escaped us! How came ye by the notebook?" 
he demanded, and when Ebenezer (though he began to comprehend that 
his friend was protecting him) was unable to think of a reply, added; "I sup- 
pose ye found it among our man's baggage- on the wharf and marked it a 
find worth drinking to?" 

"Aye," Ebenezer managed to say. "That is aye." 

"Ah God, what a lout!" Burlingame de'clared to the others. "Every 
minute at the bottle, and he holds his rum no better than an altar-boy. I 
suppose ye took ill oft, then" he sneered at Ebenezer "and puked out 
your belly in the stable?" 

The poet nodded and, daring finally to trust his voice, he asserted, "I 
woke but an hour past and ran to the wharf, but the Laureate's trunk was 
gone. Then I remembered I'd left the notebook in the stable and came 
to fetch it." 

Burlingame threw up his hands to the captains as in despair. "And to 
you this wretch hath the look of Maryland's Laureate? I aim surrounded 
by fools! Fetch us two drams and something to eat, Dolly," he ordered, 
"and all of you begone save my precious addlepate here. I've words for 
him." 

Captain Slye and Captain Scurry exited crestfallen, and Dolly, who had 
attended the whole scene indifferently, went out to pour the drinks. 
Ebenezer fairly collapsed into a chair and clutched at Burlingame's coat 
sleeve. 

"Dear God!" he whispered. "What is this all about? Why is't you pose 
as Coode, and why leave me shivering all day in the stable?" 
"Softly," Henry warned, looking over his shoulder. " Tis a ticklish spot 



[200] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

we're in, albeit a useful one. Have faith in me: I shall lay it open plainly 
when I can." 

The barmaid returned with two glasses of rum and a plate of cold veal. 
"Send Slye and Scurry to the wharf," he directed her, "and tell them I'll 
be on the Morphides by sundown." 

"Can you trust her?" Ebenezer asked when she had gone. "Surely she 
knows thou'rt not John Coode, after this morning." 

Burlingame smiled. "She knows her part. Fall to, now, and Fll tell you 
yours." 

Ebenezer did as advised he'd had no food all day and was somewhat 
calmed by the rum, which, however, made him shudder. Burlingame peered 
through a crack in the door leading into the main hall of the King o' the 
Seas, and apparently satisfied that none could overhear, explained his posi- 
tion thus: 

"Directly I left you this morning I went straightway to the dock to fetch 
fresh breeches, pondering all the while what you had told me of the two 
pirate captains. Twas my surmise they were no pirates, the more for that 
'twas you they sought what use would a pirate have for a poet? Yet, from 
your picture of them, their manner and their quest, I had another thought, 
no less alarming, which I soon saw to be the truth, Your two black 
scoundrels were there on the very dock where stood our chests, and I knew 
them at once for Slye and Scurry, two smugglers that have worked for 
Coode before, 'Twas clear Coode knew of your appointment and meant 
you no good, though what his motives were I could but guess; 'twas clear 
as well your hunters did not know their quarry's face and could be lightly 
gulled. They were speaking with the lad that sails the shallop; I made bold 
to crouch behind our trunks and heard the ferryman say that you and your 
companion were in the King o' the Seas happily I'd given him no name. 
Slye said 'twas impossible, inasmuch as but a short time since they'd been 
in the King o' the Seas, and had run out on seeing their victim in the street 
but had lost him." 

"Aye, just so," Ebenezer said. "Tis the last thing I recall. But whom 
they spied I cannot guess." 

"Nor could I, Yet the ferryman held to his stoty, and at length Slye 
proposed another search of the tavern. But Scurry protested 'twas time to 
fetch John Coode from off the fleet/' 

"Coode aboard the fleet!" 

"Aye," Burlingame declared. 'This and other things they said gave tne 
to believe that Coode hath sailed disguised frpm London on the very man- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 201 ] 

o'-war with the Governor and his company, who joined the fleet this morn- 
ing. No doubt he fears for his cause, and wished to see first-hand what 
favor his enemies have with Nicholson. Then, I gathered, Slye and Scurry 
were to meet him in the Downs and fetch him to their own ship, which 
sails tonight for the Isle of Man and thence to Maryland." 

"I'God, the boldness of the man!" exclaimed the poet 

Burlingame smiled. "You think he's bold? Tis no long voyage from Lon- 
don to Plymouth." 

"But under Nicholson's very nose! In the company of the very men he'd 
driven from the Province!" 

"Yet as I crouched this while behind our baggage," Burlingame said, 

"an even bolder notion struck me But first I must tell you one other 

thing I heard. Scurry asked Slye, How would they know their leader in 
disguise, when they'd seen not even his natural face? And Slye proposed 
they use a kind of password employed by Coode's men before the revolu- 
tion, to discover whether a third party was one of their number. Now it 
happened I knew two passwords very well from the old days when I'd 
feigned to be a rebel: In one the first man asks his confederate, 'How doth 
your friend Jim sit his mare these days?' By which is meant, How sure is 
King James's tenure on the throne? The second then replies, 'I fear me 
he'll be thrown; he wants a better mare/ And the third man, if he be privy 
to the game, will say, 'Haply 'tis the mare wants a better rider.' The other 
was for use when a man wished to make himself known to a party of 
strangers as a rebel: he would approach them on the street or in a tavern 
and say "Have you seen my friend, that wears an orange cravat?' That is 
to say, the speaker is a friend of the House of Orange. One of the party 
then cries, 'Marry, will you mark the man!' which is a pun on Queen 
Mary and King William. 

"On hearing their plans," Burlingame went on, "I resolved at once to 
thwart 'em: my first thought was for you and me to pose as Slye and Scurry, 
fetch Coode from off the man-o'-war, and in some wise detain him till we 
learned his plans and why he wanted you." 

" 'Swounds! Twould never have succeeded!" 

"That may be," Burlingame admitted. "In any case, though I'd learned 
that Slye and Scurry did not know Coode, it did not follow they were 
strangers to him indeed, they are a famous pair of rascals. For that reason 
I decided to be John Coode again, as once before on Peregrine Browne's 
ship. I stepped around the trunks and inquired after my friend with the 
orange cravat" 



[202] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Ebenezer expressed his astonishment and asked whether, considering 
that Burlingame wore the dress of a servant and that Coode was supposed 
to be aboard the man-o'-war, the move were not for all its daring ill-advised. 
His friend replied that Coode was known to be given to unusual dress- 
priest's robes, minister's frocks, and various military uniforms, for example 
and that it was in fact quite characteristic of him to appear as if from 
nowhere among his cohorts and disappear similarly, with such unexpected- 
ness that not a few of the more credulous believed him to have occult 
powers. 

"At least they believed me," he said, "once they had composed them- 
selves again, and I gave 'em small chance to question. I feigned displeasure 
at their tardiness, and fell into a great rage when they said the Laureate had 
slipped their halter. By the most discreet interrogation (for 'twas necessary 
to act as if I knew more than they) I was able to piece together an odd 
tale, which still I cannot fully fathom: Slye and Scurry had come from 
London with some wight who claimed to be Ebenezer Cooke; on orders 
from Coode they'd posed as Maryland planters and escorted the false 
Laureate to Plymouth, where I fancy they meant to put him on the 
Morphides for some sinister purpose belike they thought him a spy of 
Baltimore's. But whoe'er the fellow was he must have smelled the plot, for 
he slipped their clutches sometime this morning. 

"Now, think not I'd forgotten you," he went on; "I feared you'd find 
some other clothes and show yourself at any moment. Therefore I led Slye 
and Scurry to a tavern up the street for rum and detained them as long as 
possible, trying to hatch a plan for sending you a message. Every few min- 
utes I looked down towards the wharf, pretending to seek a servant of 
mine, and when at last I saw your trunk was gone I guessed you'd gone 
alone to the Poseidon. Anon, when we walked this way agpin, the old man 
at the wharf confirmed that Eben Cooke had sailed off in the shallop with 
his trunk." 

Ebenezer shook his head in wonder. "But " 

"Stay, till I finish. We came here then to pass the time till evening; I 
was quite sure of your safety, and planned simply to send a message to 
you by the shallop-man, so you'd not think I'd betrayed you or fallen into 
peril. When Dolly told me your notebook was in the stable I swore to Slye 
and Scurry we'd catch you yet, inasmuch as a poet will go to Hell for his 
no!:ebook, and stationed them to watch the stall for your return in fact I 
planned to send the book along to you anon with my message in it, and 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 203 ] 

used the stratagem merely to rid myself for a time of those twin apes. 
Imagine my alarm when they fetched you in!" 

Ebenezer remembered, with some discomfort, the scene his entrance had 
interrupted. 

" Tis too fantastic for words," he declared. "You thought 'twas I had 
gone, and I 'twas you I say, the fellow was wearing your coat!" 

"What? Impossible!" 

"Nay, I'm certain oft. The old man at the dock described it: a soiled 
port-purple coat and black breeches. Twas for that I guessed it to be you." 

"Dear God! Tis marvelous!" He laughed aloud. "What a comedy!" 

Ebenezer confessed his ignorance of the joke. 

"Only think on't!" his friend exclaimed. "When Slye and Scurry came 
looking for their Laureate this morning and made sport of you, not knowing 
you were he, Dolly and I had gone back yonder in the stable to play: in the 
first stall we ran to we found some poor wight sleeping, a servingman by 
the look of him, and 'twas he I traded clothes with on the spot. Right 
pleased he was to make the trade, too!" 

" 'Sheart, you mean it was the false Laureate?" 

"Who else, if the man you heard of wore my coat? Belike he'd just fled 
Slye and Scurry and was hiding from them." 

"Then 'twas he they saw go past the window after, which saved my life!" 

"No doubt it was; and learning of your trunk he must have made off 
with't. A daring fellow!" 

"He'll not get far," Ebenezer said grimly. "I'll have him off the ship 
the instant we're aboard." 

Burlingame pursed his lips, but said nothing. 

"What's wrong, Henry?" 

"You plan to sail on the Poseidon?' 9 Burlingame asked. 

"Of course! What's to prevent our slipping off right now, while Slye and 
Scurry wait us on their ship?" 

"You forget my duty." 

Ebenezer raised his eyebrows. "Is't I or you that have forgot?" 

"Look here, dear Eben," Burlingame said warmly. "I know not who 
this impostor is, but I'll warrant he's merely some pitiful London coxcomb 
out to profit by your fame. Let him be Eben Cooke on the Poseidon: 
haply the Captain will see the imposture and clap him in irons, or mavbe 
Coode will murther or corrupt him, since they're in the same fleet. Even if 
he cany the fraud to Maryland we can meet him at the wharf with the 



[204] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

sheriff, and there's an end to't. Meanwhile your trunk is safely stowed in 
the ship's hold he cannot touch it/' 

"Then 'fore God, Henry, what is't you propose?" 

"I know not what John Coode hath up his sleeve/' said Burlingame, "nor 
doth Lord Baltimore nor any man else. Tis certain he's alarmed at 
Nicholson's appointment and fears for his own foul cause; methinks he 
plans to land before the fleet, but whether to cover all traces of his former 
mischief or to sow the seeds for more I cannot guess, nor what exactly he 
plans for you. I mean to carry on my role as Coode and sail to Maryland 
on the Morphides, with my trusted servant Henry Cook/' 

"Ah no, Henry! Tis absurd!" 

Burlingame shrugged and filled his pipe. 'We'd steal a march on Coode/* 
he said, "and haply scotch his plot to boot/' 

He went on to explain that Captains Slye and Scurry were engaged in 
smuggling tobacco duty-free into England by means of the re-export device; 
that is, they registered their cargo and paid duty on it at an English port of 
entry, then reclaimed the duty by re-exporting the tobacco to the nearby 
Isle of Man technically a foreign territory whence it could be run with 
ease into either England or Ireland. "We could work their ruin as well, by 
deposing against them the minute we land. What a victory for Lord 
Baltimorel" 

Ebenezer shook his head in awe, ' 

"Well, come now!" his friend cried after a moment, "Surely thou'rt not 
afraid? Thou'rt not so distraught about this idle impostor?" 

"To speak truly, I am distraught on his account, Henry. Tis not that he 
improves his state at my expense had he robbed me, I'd be nothing much 
alarmed. But he hath robbed me of myself; he hath poached upon my very 
being! I cannot permit it/' 

"Oh la," scoffed Burlingame. "Thou'rt talking schoolish tot What is this 
coin, thy self, and how hath he possessed it?" 

Ebenezer reminded his friend of their first colloquy in the carriage from 
London, wherein he had laid open the nature of his double essence as 
virgin and poet that essence the realization of which, after his rendezvous 
with Joan Toast, had brought him into focus, if not actually into being, 
and the preservation and assertion of which was therefore his cardinal value, 
"Ne'er again shall I flee from myself, or in anywise disguise it/' he 
concluded. " Twas just such cowardice caused my shame this morning, and 
like an omen 'twas only my return to this true self that brought me through. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 205 ] 

I was cleansed by songs unborn and passed those anxious hours with the 
muse/' 

Burlingame confessed his inability to grasp the metaphor, and so the 
poet explained in simple language that he had used four blank pages of 
his notebook to clean himself with and had filled another two with sea- 
poetry. 

"I swore then never to betray myself again, Henry: 'twas only my sur- 
prise allowed this last deception. Should Slye and Scurry come upon us 
now, I'd straightway declare my true identity." 

"And straightway take a bullet in thy silly head? Thou'rt a fool!" 

"I am a poet/' Ebenezer replied, mustering his failing courage, "Let 
him who dares deny it! Besides which, even were there no impostor to 
confront, 'twould yet be necessary to cross on the Poseidon: all my verses 
name that vessel." He opened his notebook to the morning's work. "Hear 
this, now: 

"Let Ocean roar his damnedest Gale: 
Our Planks shan't leak; our Masts shan't fail. 
With great Poseidon at our Side 
He seemeth neither wild nor wide. 

"Morphides would spoil the meter, to say nothing of the conceit." 

"The conceit is spoiled already," Burlingame said sourly. "The third line 
puts you overboard, and the last may be read as well to Poseidon as to 
Ocean. As for the meter, there's naught to keep you from preserving the 
name Poseidon though you're sailing on the Morphides" 

"Nay, 'twere not the same," Ebenezer insisted, a little hurt by his 
friend's hostility. " 'Tis the true and only Poseidon I describe: 

44 A noble Ship, from Deck to Peaks, 
Akin to those that Homers Greeks 
SaiVd east to Troy in Days of Yore, 
As we saiVd now to MARYLANDS Shore." 

'Thou'rt sailing west," Burlingame observed, even more sourly. "And 
the Poseidon is a rat's nest" 

"Still greater cause for me to board her," the poet declared in an injured 
tone, "else I might describe her wrongly." 

"Fogh! 'Tis a late concern for fact you plead, is't not? Methinks 'twere 
childsplay for you to make Poseidon from the Morphides, if you can make 
him from a livery stable." 

Ebenezer closed his Notebook and rose to his feet. "I know not why 



[ 206 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

thou'rt set on injuring me," he said sadly. " Tis your prerogative to flout 
Lord Baltimore's directive, but will you scorn our friendship too, to have 
your way? Tis not as if I'd asked you to go with me though Heav'n 
knows I need your guidance! But Coode or no Coode, I will have it out 
with this impostor and sail to Maryland on the Poseidon: if you will pursue 
your reckless plot at any cost adieu, and pray God we shall meet again at 
Maiden," 

Burlingame at this appeared to relent somewhat: though he would not 
abandon his scheme to sail with Slye and Scurry, he apologized for his 
acerbity and, finding Ebenezer equally resolved to board the Poseidon, 
he bade him warm, if reluctant, farewell and swore he had no mind to 
flout his orders from Lord Baltimore. 

"Whate'er I do, I do with you in mind," he declared. "Tis Coode's 
plot against you I must thwart. Think not I'll e'er forsake you, Eben: one 
way or another I'll be your guide and savior." 

"Till Maiden, then?" Ebenezer asked with great tears in his eyes. 

"Till Maiden," Burlingame affirmed, and after a final handshake the 
poet passed through the pantry and out the rear door of the King O T the 
Seas, in great haste lest the fleet depart without him. 

Luckily he found the shallop at its pier, making ready for another trip* 
Not until he noticed Burlingame's chest among the other freight aboard 
did he remember that he had posed as a manservant to the Laureate, and 
repellent as was the idea of maintaining the deception, he realized with a 
sigh that it would be folly now to reveal his true identity, for the ensuing 
debate could well cause him to miss the boat 

"Hi, there!" he called, for the old man was slipping oS the mooring- 
lines. "Wait for me!" 

"Aha, 'tis the poet's young dandy, is it?" said the man Joseph, who stood 
in the stern. "We had near left ye high and dry." 

Breathing hard from his final sprint along the dock, Ebenezer boarded 
the shallop. "Stay," he ordered. "Make fast your lines a moment" 

"Nonsense!" laughed the sailor. "We're late as't is!" 

But Ebenezer declared, to the great disgust of father and son alike, that 
he had made an error before, which he now sincerely regretted: in his 
eagerness to serve his master he had mistaken Captain Coode's trunk for 
the one committed to his charge. He would be happy to pay feny-fxaght 
on it anyway, since they had been at the labor of loading it aboard; but the 
trunk must be returned to the pier before Captain Coode learned of the 
matter. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [207] 

" Tis an indulgent master will suffer such a fool to serve him/' Joseph 
observed; but nevertheless, with appropriate grunts and curses the transfer 
was effected, and upon receipt of an extra shilling apiece by way of gratuity, 
the ferrymen cast off their lines once more the old man going along as 
well this trip, for the wind had risen somewhat since early afternoon. The 
son, Joseph, pushed off from the bow with a pole, ran up the jib to luff in 
the breeze, close-hauled and sheeted home the mainsail, and went forward 
again to belay the jib sheet; his father put the tiller down hard, the sails 
filled, and the shallop gained way in the direction of the Downs, heeling 
gently on a larboard tack. The poets heart shivered with excitement; the 
salt wind brought the blood to his brow and made his stomach flutter. 
After some minutes of sailing he was able to see the fleet against the lower- 
ing sun: half a hundred barks, snows, ketches, brigs, and full-rigged ships 
all anchored in a loose cluster around the man-o'-war that would escort 
them through pirate-waters to the Virginia Capes, whence they would pro- 
ceed to their separate destinations. On closer view the vessels could be seen 
bristling with activity: lighters and ferries of every description shuttled from 
ship to shore and ship to ship with last-minute passengers and cargo; sailors 
toiled in the rigging bending sails to the spars; officers shouted a-low and 
aloft, 

"Which is the Poseidon?" he asked joyously. 

"Yonder, off to starboard/' The old man pointed with his pipestem to a 
ship anchored some quarter of a mile away on their right, to windward; the 
next tack would bring them to her. A ship of perhaps two hundred tons, 
broad of bow and square of stern, fo'c'sle and poop high over the main 
deck, fore, main, and mizzen with yards and topmasts all, the Poseidon 
was not greatly different in appearance from the other vessels of her class 
in the fleet: indeed, if anything she was less prepossessing. To the seasoned 
eye her frayed halyards, ill-tarred shrouds, rusty chain plates, "Irish pen- 
nants," and general slovenliness bespoke old age and careless usage. But 
to Ebenezer she far outshone her neighbors. "Majesticl" he exclaimed, and 
scarce could wait to board her. When at last they completed the tack and 
made fast alongside, he scrambled readily up the ladder a feat that would 
as a rule have been beyond him and saluted the deck officer with a cheery 
good day. 

"May I enquire your name, sir?" asked that worthy. 

"Indeed," the poet replied, bowing slightly. "I am Ebenezer Cooke, Poet 
and Laureate of the Province of Maryland. My passage is already hired." 



[208] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

The officer beckoned to a pair of husky sailors standing nearby, and 
Ebenezer found both his arms held fast. 

"What doth this mean?" he cried. Everyone on the Poseidon's deck 
turned to watch the scene. 

"Let us test whether he can swim as grandly as he lies/' the officer said. 
"Throw the wretch o'er the side, boys/' 

"Desist!" the poet commanded. "I shall have the Captain flog the lot of 
you! I am Ebenezer Cooke, I said; by order of Lord Baltimore Poet and 
Laureate of Maryland!" 

"I see/' said the officer, smiling uncordially. "And hath His Laureateship 
anyone to vouch for his identity? Surely the gentlemen and ladies among 
the passengers must know their Laureatel" 

"Of course I can bring proof," said Ebenezer, "though it seems to me 

'tis you should bear the burden! I have a friend ashore who " He 

stopped, recalling Burlingame's disguise. 

"Who will swear to't through his teeth, for all you've bribed him/' de- 
clared the officer. 

"He lies," said the young man Joseph from the shallop, who had climbed 
aboard behind Ebenezer. "He told me he was a servant of the Laureate's, 
and now I doubt e'en that. What servant would pretend to be his master, 
when his master's near at hand?" 

"Nay, you mistake me!" Ebenezer protested. "The man who calls him- 
self Ebenezer Cooke is an impostor, I swear't! Fetch the knave out, that 
I may look him in the eye and curse him for a fraud!" 

"He is in his cabin writing verse," the officer replied, "and shan't be 
bothered/' To the sailors he said, "Throw him o'er the side and be damned 
to him." 

"Stay! Stay!" Ebenezer shrieked. He wished with all his heart he were at 
the King o' the Seas with Burlingame. "I can prove the man's deceiving 
you! I have a commission from Lord Baltimore himself!" 

"Then prithee show it," the officer invited with a smil^ "and I shall 
throw the other wight o'er the side instead." 

"Dear God!" the poet groaned, the facts dawning on him* "I have mis- 
laid it! Belike 'tis in my chest somewhere, below." 

"Belike it is, since the chest is Mr. Cooke's. In any case 'tis not mislaid, 
for I have seen it the Laureate produced it on request by way of voucher. 
Toss the lout over!" 

But Ebenezer, realizing his predicament, fell to his knees on the deck 
and embraced the officer's legs. "Nay, I pray you, do not drown me! I own 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 209 ] 

I sought to fool you, good masters, but 'twas only a simple prank, a mere 
April Foolery. I am the Laureate's servant, e'en as this gentleman 
affirmed, and have the Laureate's notebook here to prove it. Take me to 
my master, I pray you, and I shall beg his pardon. Twas but a simple 
prank, I swear!" 

"What say ye y sir?" asked one of the sailors. 

"He may speak truly/' the officer allowed, consulting a paper in his hand. 
"Mr. Cooke hired passage for a servant, but brought none with him from 
the harbor/' 

"Methinks he's but a rascally adventurer," said Joseph. 

"Nay, I jjwear't!" cried the poet, remembering that Burlingame had hired 
berths that morning for Ebenezer and himself in the guise of the servant 
Bertrand. "I am Bertrand Burton of St. Giles in the Fields, masters Mr. 
Cooke's man, and his father's!" 

The officer considered the matter for a moment. "Very well, send him 
below instead, till his master acknowledges him." 

For all his misery Ebenezer was relieved: it was his plan to stay aboard 
at any cost, for once under way, he reasoned, he could press his case until 
they were persuaded of his true identity and the mysterious stranger's 
imposture. 

"Ah God, I thank thee, sir!" 

The sailors led him toward the fo'c'sle. 

"Not at all," the officer said with a bow. "In an hour we shall be at sea, 
and if your master doth not own you, 'twill be a long swim home." 



11 : DEPARTURE FROM ALBION: THE LAUREATE AT SEA 



THUS IT HAPPENED THAT NOT LONG AFTERWARDS, WHEN ANCHORS WERE 

weighed and catted, buntlines cast off, sails unfurled, and sheets, halyards, 
and braces belayed, and the Poseidon was sea-borne on a broad reach past 
The Lizard, Ebenezer was not on hand to witness the spectacle with the 
gentlemen of the quarter-deck,, but lay disconsolate in a fo'c'sle hammock- 
alone, for the crew was busy above. The officer's last words were frightening 
enough, to be sure, but he no longer really wished he were back in the King 
o' the Seas. There was a chance, of course, that the impostor could not be 
intimidated, but surely as a last resort he'd let the genuine Laureate pose 



[ 210 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

as his servant rather than condemn him to drown; and Ebenezfer saw noth- 
ing but certain death in Burlingame's daring scheme. All things considered, 
then, he believed his course of action was really rather prudent, perhaps 
the best expedient imaginable under the circumstances; had he acquiesced 
to it at Burlingame's advice, and were his friend at hand to lend him moral 
support in the forthcoming interview, he might still have been fearful but 
he'd not have been disconsolate. The thing that dizzied him, brought 
sweat to his palms,, and shortened his breath was that he alone had elected 
to board the Poseidon, to pose as Bertrand Burton, to declare to the officer 
his real identity, and finally to repudiate the declaration and risk his life to 
reach Maiden. He heard the rattling of the anchor chain, the scamper of 
feet on the deck above his head, the shouted commands of the mate, the 
chanteys of the crew on the lines; he felt the ship heel slightly to larboard 
and gain steerage-way, and he was disconsolate very nearly ill again, as in 
his room that final night in London. 

Presently an aged sailor climbed halfway down the companionway into 
the fo'c'sle a toothless, hairless, flinty-eyed salt with sunken cheeks* color- 
less lips, yellow-leather skin, and a great sore along the side of his nose, 

"Look alive, laddie!" he chirped from the ladder. "The Captain wants 
ye on the poop." 

Ebenezer sprang readily from the hammock, his notebook still clutched 
in his hand, and failing to allow for the incline of the deck, crashed heavily 
against a nearby bulkhead. 

"Whoa! 'Sheart!" he muttered. 

"Hee hee! Step lively, son!" 

"What doth the Captain wish of me?" the poet asked, steadying himself 
at the foot of the ladder. "Can it be he realizes who I am, and what 
indignities I suffer?" 

"Belike he'll have ye keelhauled," the old man cackled, and fetched 
Ebenezer a wicked pinch upon his cheek, so sharp it made the tears come. 
"We've barnacles enough to take the hide off a dog shark* Come along 
with ye!" 

There was nothing for it but to climb the ladder to the main deck and 
follow his comfortless guide aft to the poop. There stood the Captain, a 
florid, beardless, portly fellow, jowled and stern as any Calvinist, but with a 
pink of debauchery in both his eyes, and wet red lips that would have 
made Arminius frown. 

Ebenezer, rubbing his injured cheek, observed a general whispering 
among the gentlemen on the quarter-deck as he passed, and hung his head 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 211 ] 

When he stepped up on the ladderway to the poop, the old sailor caught 
him by the coat and pulled him back. 

"Hold, there! The poop deck's not for the likes of you!" 

"Good enough, Ned," said the Captain, waving him off. 

"What is't you wish, sir?" Ebenezer asked. 

"Nothing/' The Captain looked down at him with interest. "Tis Mr. 
Cooke, thy master, wants to see ye, not I. D'ye still say thou'rt his man?" 

"Aye." 

"Ye know what sometimes happens to stowaways?" 

Ebenezer glanced at the sky darkening with evening to the east and 
storm clouds to the west, the whitecapped water, and the fast-receding rocks 
of England. His heart chilled. 

"Aye." 

"Take him to my cabin," the Captain ordered Ned. "But mind ye knock 
ere ye enter: Mr. Cooke is busy rhyming verses." 

Ebenezer was impressed: he would not himself have dared to request 
such a privilege. Whoever this impostor was, he had the manner of the rank 
he claimedl 

The sailor led him by the sleeve to a companionway at the after end of 
the quarter-deck which opened to the captain's quarters under the poop. 
They descended a short ladder into what appeared to be a chart-room, and 
old Ned rapped on a door leading aft. 

"What is it?" someone inside demanded. The voice was sharp, self- 
confident, and faintly annoyed: certainly not the voice of a man fearful of 
exposure. Ebenezer thought again of the dark sea outside and shivered: 
there was not a chance of reaching shore. 

"Begging your pardon, Mr. Cooke," Ned pleaded, clearly intimidated 
himself, "I have the wretch here that says he is your servant, sir: the one 
that tried to tell us he was you, sir." 

"Aha! Send him in and leave us alone," said the voice, as if relishing the 
prospect. All thought of victory fled the poet's mind: he resolved to ask no 
more than mercy from the man and possibly a promise to return, when 
they reached Maryland, that commission from Lord Baltimore, which some- 
how or other the impostor had acquired. And maybe an apology, for it 
was, after all, a deuced humiliation he was suffering! 

Ned opened the door and assisted Ebenezer through with another cruel 
pinch, this time on the buttock, and an evil laugh. The poet jumped 
involuntarily; again his eyes watered, and his knees went weak when Ned 
closed the door behind him. He found himself in a small but handsomely 



[ 212 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

furnished cabin in the extreme rear of the vessel. The floor was carpeted; 
the Captain's bed, built into one wall, was comfortably clothed in clean 
linen. A large brass oil lamp, already lit, swung gently from the ceiling and 
illuminated a great oak table beneath. There was even a glass-fronted book- 
case, and oil portraits in the style of Titian, Rubens, and Correggio were 
fastened with decorative brass bolts around the walls. The impostor, 
dressed in Burlingame's port-purple coat and sporting a campaigner wig, 
stood with his back to the poet at the far wall actually the stem of the 
ship staring through small leaded windowpanes at the Poseidon's wake. 
Satisfied that Ned was gone, Ebenezer rushed around the table and fell to 
his knees at the other man's feet. 

"Dear, dear sir!" he cried, not daring to look up, "Believe me, I've no 
mind at all to expose your disguise! No mind at all, sir! I know full well how 
you came by your clothing in the stable of the King o* the Seas and fooled 
the ferryman Joseph and his father at the wharf though how in Heaven 
you got my Lord Baltimore's commission, that he wiote for me in his own 
hand not a week past, I cannot fathom/' 

The impostor, above him, made a small sound and backed away. 

"But no matter! Think not I'm wroth, or mean to take revenge! I ask no 
more than that you let me pose as your servant on this ship, nor shall I 
breathe a word oft to a soul, you may depend on'tl What would it profit 
you to see me drown? And when we land in Maryland, why, IT! bring no 
charge against you, but call it quits and think no more oft Nay, HI g# 
thee a place at Maiden, my estate^ or pay your fare to a neighboring 
province " 

Glancing up at this last to see what effect his plea was having, he stopped 
and said no more. The blood drained from his face. 

"Nay!" He sprang to his feet and leaped at the impostor, who barely 
escaped to the other side of the round oak table. His campaigner, however, 
fell to the floor, and the light from the lamp fell Ml on Bertiand Burton 
the real Bertrand, whom Ebenezer had last seen in bis room in Pndding 
Lane when he left it to seek a notebook at the Sign of the Raven. 

JGod! F God!" He could scarcely speak for rage, 

"Prithee, Master Ebenezer, sir * The voice was Bertrand's voice, 

formidable no more. Ebenezer lunged again, but the servant kept the table 
between them. 

"You'd watch me drown! Let me crawl to you for mere?!" 
"Prithee " 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 21 3 

"Wretch! Only let me lay hands on that craven neck, to wring it like a 
capon's! We'll see who drinks salt water!" 

"Nay, prithee, master! I meant thee no ill, I swear't! I can explain all 
of it, every part! Dear God, I never dreamed 'twas you they'd caught, sir! 
Think ye I'd see ye suffer, that e'er was such a gentle master? I, that was 
your blessed father's trusty friend and adviser for years? Why, I'd take a 
flogging ere I'd let 'em lay a hand on ye, sir!" 

"Flogging you shall have right soon, i'faith!" the poet said grimly, re- 
versing his field in vain from clockwise to counterclockwise. "Nor shall that 
be the worst oft, when I catch you!" ' 

"Do but let me say, sir " 

"Hi! I near had thee then!" 

" 'twas through no fault of mine " 

"Aft/ You knave, hold still!" 

"but bad rum and a treacherous woman " 

"'Sheart! But when I have thee " 

" and who's really to blame, sir " 

"I shall flog that purple coat from off thy back " 

"is your sister Anna's beau!" 

The chase ended. Ebenezer leaned across the table into the lamplight, 
brighter now for the gathering dark outside. 

"What is't I heard you say?" he asked carefully. 

"I only said, sir, what commenced this whole affair was the pound ster- 
ling your sister and her gentleman friend presented me with in the post- 
house, when I had fetched your baggage there." 

"I shall cut thy lying tongue from out thy head!" 

"Tis true as Scripture, sir, I sweartl" Bertrand said, still moving warily 
as Ebenezer moved. 

"You saw them there together? Impossible!" 

"God smite me dead if I did not, sir: Miss Anna and some gentleman 
with a beard, that she called Henry." 

"Dear Heav'n!" the poet muttered as if to himself. "But you called him 
her beau, Bertrand?" 

"Well, now, no slur intended, sir; oh, no slur intended at all! I meant 
no more by't than that Ah, sir, you know full well how folks make hasty 
judgments, and far be't from me " 

"Cease thy prating! What did you see, that made you call him her beau? 
No mor than cordial conversation?" 

"'Sheart, xather more than that, sir! But think not I'm the sort " 



[214] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"I know well thou'rt a thief, a liar, and a cheat," Ebenezer snapped 
"What is't you saw that set thy filthy mind to work? Eh?" 

"I hardly dare tell, sir; thou'rt in such a rage! Who's to say ye'll not 
strike me dead, though from first to last I am innocent as a babe?" 

"Enough/' the poet sighed, "I know the signs of old. You'll drive me 
mad with your digressions and delays until I guarantee your safety. Very 
well, I shan't besmirch my hands on you, I promise. Speak plainly, now!" 

"They were in each other's arms," the servant said, "and billing and 
cooing at a mad rate when I came up with your baggage. When Miss Anna 
had sight of me she blushed and tried to compose herself, yet all the while 
she and the gentleman spoke to me, they could not for the life of 'em 
stand still, but must ever be at sweetmeat and honeybee, and fondle and 
squeeze Are you ill, sir?" 

Ebenezer had gone pale; he slumped into the Captain's chair and 
clutched his head in his hands. " Tis nothing." 

"Well, as I said, sir, they could not keep their hands * 

"Finish thy story if you must," Ebenezer broke in, "but speak no more 
of those two, as you prize your wretched life! They paid you, did they?" 

"They did in truth, sir, for fetching down your baggage," 

"But a pound? Tis rather a princely reward for the task." 

"Ah, now, sir, I am after all an old and trusted " He stopped half- 
way through the sentence, so fierce was the look on Ebetiezer's face. "Be- 
sides which," he concluded, "now I see hov/t strikes ye, 'tis likely they wished 
me to say naught of what I'd seen. I tell yey sir, 'tis not for much I'd have 
missed your setting out! Had not Miss Anna and her gentleman insisted 
that I leave at once " 

"Spare me thy devotion," Ebenezer said. "What did you then,, and why 
did you pose as me? Speak fast, ere I fetch the Captain." 

" 'Tis a tragic tale, sir, that shames me in the telling. I beg ye keep in 
mind I'd never have presumed, sir, save that I was distracted and possessed 
by grief at your arrest and in direst peril of my life," 

"My arrest!" 

"Aye, sir, in the posthouse. Tis a mystery to me yet how tbou'rt free> 
and how you came so rapidly from London." 

Ebenezer smacked his hand upon the table. "Speak English, man! 
Straight English sentences a man can follow!" 

"Very well, sir," Bertrand said. "I shall begin at the beginning, if yell 
bear with me." So saying, he took the liberty of sitting at the Captain's 
table, facing Ebenezer, and with a full complement of moralizing asides 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [215] 

and other commentary, delivered himself during the next half hour of the 
following story: 

" Twas a double grief I carried from the posthouse in my heart, sir, in- 
asmuch as I had lost the gentlest, kindliest master that ever poor servingman 
served, and could not even ckim the privilege of seeing him off to Plym- 
outh in his coach, and wishing him a last Godspeed. Therefore I sought 

a double physic for't. With the pound Miss Anna and her What I mean 

to say, sir, I hied me to a winehouse near, at hand and drank a deal of 
rackpunch, that the rogue of a barman had laced with such poisonous mo- 
lasses rum I near went blind on the spot. Three glasses served to rob me 
of all judgment, yet such was my pain at losing you I drank off seven, 
and bought a quart of ratafia besides, for Betsy Birdsall. That is to say, not 
all the bottled spirits in London could restore my own, and so at length 
I fled for comfort back to Pudding Lane, to your rooms, sir. Yet well I 
knew they'd seem so vacant with ye gone, 'twould but increase tenfold my 
pain to sit alone, and for that cause I stopped belowstairs to summon 
Betsy Birdsall ye recall the chambermaid, sir, that had the unnatural hus- 
band and the fetching laugh? We climbed the stairs together, and 'sheart! 
so far from vacant,, your rooms were fit to burst with men, sir! A wight 
named Bragg there was, that looked nor manlier than my Betsy's husband, 
and a half-a-dozen sheriff's bullies with him; 'twas you they sought, sir, 
with some false tale of a ledger-book I ne'er made rhyme nor sense of tl 

"Directly they spied me a shout went up, and they were that bent on 
justice, I feared for Betsy's honor at their hands. At length I told them, in 
answer to their queries, my master was at the posthouse, and off they ran 

to catch ye Nay, look not thus, sirl 'Tis not as ye think, I swear't! Not 

for a moment would I have breathed the truth, had I not known your 
coach was some time gone rather would I have suffered death itself, or 
prison, at their hands! But well I knew 'twas a wild-goose chase they chased, 
and good riddancel 

"We turned to't then, the wench and I, and with her her ratafia and me 
my rum we lacked no fire to warm the sheets withal, and were that tired 
when we had done, that though 'twas brightest day we slept some hours 
in sweat, sack a sack. Anon I knew, by certain signs, my mount was fresh 
and restless for the jumps; yet for a time I feigned to slumber on. (The 
truth oft is, though the girl and I are twins in will and skill, I've twice her 
years and half her strength, and more than once have cantered willy-nilly 
when I yearned to walk.) There were these signs, I say, that I'd have naught 
of, till Betsy made a moan and dived head foremost 'neath the covers. The 



[ 2l6 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

cause wherefor I saw at once in opening my eyes, for 'twas not her hands 
were on me after all, but the hands of Mister Trentice-Clerk himself, 
the winehouse fiddler! Aye, I swear't, 'twas that same Ralph Birdsall, 
Betsy's husband, that erst was wont to leave his field unplowed, but since 
I seeded it had grown such a jealous farmer he looked to's plot five times 
a day. He had come home to run another furrow, like as not, and on ad- 
vice from one below the cook's boy Tim, that long himself had leched 
for Betsyhe stole upstairs to find us. 

" 'Sblood, 'twas a murtherous moment, sir! I had like to smirch me for 
very fright, and waited only for knife or ball. Betsy likewise, albeit her 
head was buried like the ostrich's, showed great alarm: 'twas writ all over 
her hinder part. Yet Birdsall himself seemed no less racked: he shivered 
like a yawning cat and drew his breath unnaturally. Nor was't in wrath 
his hands lay on me, as I soon saw. Great tears coursed down his cheeks, 
the which were smooth as any girl's; he sniffed and bit his underlip, yet 
would not speak nor smite me down. 

" 'Out on't!' I cried at last. 'Here I lie, and there lies thy wife, right 
roundly rogered: ye have caught us fair enough. Then make an end on't, 
sir, or get thee hence! 7 He then composed himself and said, that though 
'twas in his rights to slay the twain of us, yet he had no taste for bloodshed 
and loved his wife besides. The horns were on his brow, he said, nor 
could his short-sword poll him. Moreover, he declared that in bedding 
Betsy I had bedded him, forasmuch as marriage made them one; and on 
this ground averred, that whate'er Betsy felt for me, he could but feel 
the same in short, to the degree I was her lover, I was his as well, and 
this in the eyes of God Himself! 

"Now all this Jesuitry I heard amazed, yet was right glad to remain 
unpunctured, and I made bold to put him in mind of that ancient and 
consoling verity, None save the mttol knows he is no cuckold. On hearing 
which, the wretch straightway embraced me, and de'il I had no taste for% 
'twas give him his head or lose my own. Betsy meanwhile, on hearing how 
the wind blew, soon calmed her shivering hams and, throwing off the covers, 
cried she had no mind to play Rub-a-dub-dub nor could she fathom how 
such a bedful of women had ever got her with child. At this Ralph Birdsall 
gave a mighty start and in a trembling tone enquired, was't he or I had got 
the child? Whereupon my Betsy cried, * 'Twas he! 'Twas my sweet Ber- 
trand!' Methought I was betrayed and cursed her for a liar; to Ralph I swore 
I'd ne'er laid hands on Betsy till a fortnight past, nor swived her till a good 
week after, whereas the child was three months in her belly if he was a 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 21J ] 

day. 'He lies!' swore Betsy; *I swear'tf swore I. 'Nay!' swore she. "Tis full 
six months I've been his whore, that had no husband to wife me! A hun- 
dred times hath he climbed and sowed me, till I am full as a full-corned 
goose of him!' Ralph Birdsall then fetched out his sword, that, clerk 
or no, he boasted always at his hip. The truth! 7 he cried, and shook all 
over as with an ague. I still took Betsy for a traitor, and so declared, * Tore 
God thy wife's a hellish liar, sir, but nonetheless she is no whore. May 
I fry in Hell if the child is any man's but yours/ 

"Alas! What man can say he knows his fellow man? Who'd not have 
sworn, when at last I quite persuaded Birdsall, 'twould soften his wrath 
the more for that 'twas not his horns that galled him? Yet when I'd said 
my piece and he Amen'd it, he drew himself up and scowled a fearsome 
scowl. Whore!' he cried at Betsy, and with the flat of his sword he fetched 
her a swingeing clap athwart her seat. Nor stopped he there, but made 
to run me through, and 'twas only the nimblest of legs that saved my 
neck. I snatched up my breeches and dashed for the door, with the fiddler 
in hot career behind, nor durst I stop to cover my shame till I was half 
a square before him Better lose pride than hide, sir, as they say. As for 
my tatling Betsy, the last I saw her she was springing hither and yon 
about the room, sir,, hands on her buttocks and hollowing like a hero, 
nor have I seen her since. The truth oft was, as I guessed later, the 
babe in Betsy's belly was the fiddler's claim to manhood, so long as he 
thought himself the father; it took no more than discovering us rem in rem 
to quite undo him. Twas only to save me the wench gave out the truth, 
and 'sblood! I cut my throat to call her false, for albeit the cuckold lost 
my trail, he'd vowed to hound me to the earth's ends and poll that horn 
wherewith himself was horned! 

"There was naught for it then but I must flee; yet I had but three pound 
in my breeches, nor dared return for clothes or savings. I summoned a 
boy who happened through the alley where I hid and sent him with the 
money for shirt, hose, and shoes; then for an hour I prowled the streets, 
debating what to do. 

"By merest chance my way led to the posthouse, at sight of which I 
could not but weep to think of your straits,, that were but little happier 
than my own. 'Twas here I hit upon my plan, sir, whereof the substance 
was, that though 'twas past my power to help ye, yet in your misery ye 
might ransom me. That is to say, ye'd bought your passage to Maryland 
and could not sail; who knew but what ye'd bought your seat to Plym- 
outh as well? Think not I planned to cheat thee, sir! 'Twas but to Plymouth 



[ 2l8 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

I meant to go, to save my life, and vowed to make ye restitution when 
I could. I did not doubt I could play the poet, though de'il the bit I know 
of verse, for I've a gift for mime, sir, if I may say so. Aye, many's the hour 
at St. Giles I've kept the folk in stitches by 'personating old Mrs. Twigg, 
with her crooked walk and her voice like an ironmonger's! And once in 
Pudding Lane, sir, I did Ralph Birdsall to such a turn, my Betsy wept 
a-laughing, nor could contain herself but let fly on the sheets for very 
mirth. The only rub was, should someone challenge me I'd naught where- 
with to prove my case. For that reason, though I need not say how much 
I loathed to do't, I called for quill and paper in the posthouse, sir, and 
as best my memory would serve me I writ a copy of your commission, the 
which ye'd showed me ere ye left " 

At this point, Ebenezer, who had with the greatest difficulty contained 
his mounting astonishment and wrath as Bertrand r s tale unfolded, cried 
out, ''Devil take it, man, is there aught of infamy you'd stop at? Steal 
passage, take name and rank, and even forge commission! Let me see it!" 

" Tis but a miserable approximation, sir," the servant said. "I've little 
wit in the matter of language and had no seal to seal it with." He drew 
a paper from his coat and proffered it reluctantly, " Twould fool no man, 
I'm certain." 

"Tis not Lord Baltimore's hand," Ebenezer admitted, scanning the 
paper. "But i'faith!" he added on reading it. "The wording is the same, 
from first to last! And you say 'twas done from memory? Recite it for me, 
then!" 

"Marry, sir, I cannot; 'twas some time past." 

"The first line, then. Surely you recall the first line oft? No? Then thou'rt 
an arrant liar!" He flung the paper to the floor. "Where is my commission, 
that you copied this from?" 

" Tore God, sir, I do not know." 

"And yet you copied from it in the posthouse?" 

"Ye force the truth from me, sir," Bertrand said, shamefaced. " Twas in- 
deed from the original I copied, and not from memory; neither was it in 
the posthouse I did the deed, but in your room, sir, the day ye left. The 
commission was on your writing table, where ye'd forgot it; I found it 
there as I was packing your trunk, and so moved was I by the grandness 
oft I made a copy, thinking to show my Betsy what a master I'd lost 
The original I put in your trunk and carried to the posthouse." 

"Then why this sneak and subterfuge?" the poet demanded. ""Why did 
you not admit it from the start? Thank Heaven the thing's not lost!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 219 ] 

Bertrand made no reply, but scowled more miserably than ever. 
'Well? Surely 'tis in my trunk this instant, is't not? Why did you lie?" 

"I put the paper in your trunk, sir/' Bertrand said, "on the very top 
of all, and fetched your baggage to the posthouse; nor thought I more oft 
till the hour I've told of, when, to save my life, I vowed to 'personate my 
way to Plymouth. Then I recalled my copy and luckily found it where it 
had been since the hour I forged it folded in quarters in my pocket. To 
try myself I marched into the posthouse, and to the first wight I met I said, 
Tm Ebenezer Cooke, my man, Poet and Laureate of die Province of 
Maryland: please direct me to the Plymouth coach/" 

"The brassl" 

Bertrand shrugged: the Burlingamelike gesture was the more startling 
performed as it was in Burlingame's port-purple coat. "Twas daring 
enough," he admitted. "The fellow only stared and mumbled something 
about the coach being gone. I feared he saw through my imposture, and 
the more when a stout fierce fellow in black came up behind and said, 
Thou'rt the poet Cooke, ye say? Thou'rt a knave and liar, for the poet 
Cooke they fetched to jail not two hours past/ " 

"To jail!" Ebenezer cried. "What is this talk of jail, man, that ye return 
to here again?" 

" 'Twas what Fd feared, sir: that wretch named Bragg, that would have 
the law on ye for some false matter of a ledger-book. 'Twas only inasmuch 
as I knew ye were past rescue, as I say, sir, that I presumed to use your 
passage " 

"Stay! Stay! One moment, now!" Ebenezer protested. "There is a mar- 
velous discrepancy here!" 

"A discrepancy, sir?" 

"It wants no barrister to see it," the poet said. "Twas you set Bragg on 
my trail, was't not, when you found him in my room? And 'twas only that 
you knew I'd be long gone, you said. How is't then " 

"Prithee let me finish, sir/' Bertrand pleaded, coloring noticeably. "Tales 
are like tarts, that may be ugly on the face of 'em and yet have a worth- 
while end. This man, I say, declared ye were in jail a fearsome fellow, 
he was, dressed all in black, with a great black beard, and pistols in his 
waist. And not far behind him was another, as like as any twin, which, 
when he joined the first, the man I'd queried took fright and ran. As would 
have I, but for access of fear." 

"They sound like Slye and Scurry!" 

"The very same, sir,, they called each other: a pair of sharks as may I 



[ 220 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

never meet again! Yet little I knew of 'em then but that they'd challenged 
me, and so I said straight out, the man who'd gone to jail was an impostor, 
and jailed for his imposture, and I was the real Ebenezer Cooke. To 
prove it I displayed my false commission, scarce daring to hope they'd be 
persuaded. Yet persuaded they were, and even humbled, as I thought; they 
whispered together for a while and then insisted I ride to Plymouth with 
them, inasmuch as the regular coach was gone. I took the boon right 
readily, fearing any minute to see Ralph Birdsall and his sword " 

"And fell into their hands/' Ebenezer said with relish. "By Heav'n, 
'tis no more than your desertl" 

Bertrand shuddered. "Say not so, sir! Hi, what a pair of fiends! No sooner 
were we on the road than their intent came clear: they were lieutenants 
of one Colonel Coode of Maryland, that hath designs upon the govern- 
ment, and had been sent by him to waylay Eben Cooke which quany 
fearing bagged by other hunters, they were the more ready to believe 
me him. What designs they had on you, sir, I could not guess, but certain 
'twas not to beg a verse of ye, for they held each a pistol ready, and left 
no doubt I was their prisoner. Twas not till Plymouth I escaped; one of 
the twain went to see how fared their ship, and the other wandering some 
yards off to rouse the stableboy at the King o' the Seas, I leaped round 
a corner and burrowed into a pile of hay, where I hid till they gave o'er 
the search and went inside for rum." 

"Take them no farther," Ebenezer said; "I know the test of their his- 
tory. 'Twas in the hay, then, that Burlingame found you?" 

"Aye, sir, I heard the sound of people and trembled for my life, the 
more for that their footsteps came toward me. Anon I felt a great thrashing 
weight upon me, and thinking I was jumped by Slye or Scurry, I gave a 
great hollow and grappled as best I could to save my life, Twas the barmaid 
from the tavern I found opposing me coats high, drawers low, and ripe 
for rogering and Miss Anna's beau stood by, laughing mightily at the 
combat." 

"Enough, enough! How is't you did not know each other, if as you 
say you'd seen him at the posthouse?" 

"Not know him? I knew him at once, sir and he me, and 'twere hard 
to tell which was the more amazed. Yet he asked me nothing of my 
business there, but straightway offered to change clothes with me I dare- 
say he feared my telling tales to his Miss Anna " 

"Enough/" Ebenezer ordered again. 

"No harm intended, sir; no injury meant. In any case I was pleased to 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 221 ] 

make the change, not alone in that I had the better of the bargain but 
also to escape from Slye and Scurry. Yet I went no farther than the door 
of the King o' the Seas ere they spied me from inside and gave chase; 
'twas only by hiding behind some baggage on a pier that I eluded them. 
Then fancy my amazement, sir, when I saw 'twas your own trunk had 
saved me, that I'd packed myself not long before! I knew alas! ye were 
not there to claim it and so resolved to carry my poor deception one step 
farther; to board your ship, sir, with your own commission, and hide till 
I deemed it safe to go ashore. To that end, so soon as I was safe aboard 
I unlocked your trunk " 

'What say you?" 

"Ye'd left one key with me in London, what time I packed ye. But 
I found the paper gone, sir." 

"Gone/ Great heavens, man, whither?" 

"Lost, strayed, or stolen, sir," said Bertrand. " Twas on the very top I'd 
laid it,, yet now 'twas nowhere in the trunk. I had to use my false commission 
instead, which happily convinced 'em for all it had no seal. I told the 
Captain to keep watch for my pursuers. The rest ye know." 

Ebenezer paced the cabin wildly, his finger ends pressed against his 
temples. 

"When word came to me that some stranger was aboard that called him- 
self the Laureate, then swore he was the Laureate's man," Bertrand con- 
cluded, watching his master anxiously, "I durst not leave this room. If t 
was Slye or Scurry or Coode himself, I would be murthered on the spot. 
I had no choice but to stand here, sick at heart, and watch the ship get 
under way. The officer then said I must inspect ye, and so sure was I of 
death, I could not turn from the window till I heard your voice. How is't 
thou'rt not in jail, sir?" 

"Jail!" Ebenezer said with impatience. "I never was in jail!" 

"Then who is't took your place? Slye vowed that when he and Scurry 
searched the posthouse for ye, they heard on every side of a man who'd 
been arrested not ten minutes before and carried off to jail None knew 
what crime he'd done, but all knew his name was Eben Cooke,, for the 
man had strode about declaring name and rank to the world." 

"No doubt a second impostor," the poet replied, "bent on whoring my 
office to his purpose. May he rot in irons for ever and aye! As for you, since 
'twas not among your plans to make a voyage, you'll sail no farther " 

'Te'll have 'em fetch me ashore?" Bertrand went to his knees in grati- 



[ 222 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

tilde. "Ah marry, what a place in Heav'n is thine, sitl What an injustice 
I did ye, to fear ye'd not have pity on my case!" 

"On the contrary; 'tis perhaps the one injustice you did me not." 

"Sir?" 

Ebenezer turned away to the stern windows. "Twere well to say a 
prayer before you rise; I mean you'll swim for't." 

"Nay! Twere the end o' me, sir!" 

"As't were of me/ 7 Ebenezer said, "had you not owned " 

He stopped short: master and man measured each other for an instant, 
then sprang together for the false commission on the floor which laying 
hold of at the same instant, they soon destroyed in their struggle. 

"No matter," Ebenezer said. " Twill take but a minute with the twain 
of us for any fool to judge which is the poet and which the lying knave/' 

"Think better oft!" Bertrand warned. " Tis not my wish to harm ye, 
sir, but if it comes to that, there'll be no judgment; I've but to send for 
the man that fetched ye here and swear I know ye not." 

"What! You'll threaten me too, that have already set the law upon me, 
robbed me of name and passage, and well-nigh caused my death? A pretty 
fellow!" 

For all his wrath, however, Ebenezer was not blind to the uncertainty 
of his position; he spoke no more of summoning an officer to judge between 
them nor did he further question Bertrand's tale, though several details of 
it failed to satisfy him. The valet had declared, for example, that only the 
certainty of his master's departure had allowed him with clear conscience 
to send Bragg's bullies to the posthouse; yet it was his certainty of Eben- 
ezer's arrest that had allowed him, before entering the posthouse again, 
to conceive the notion of posing as Laureate* How was this discrepancy 
to be accounted for? And how could the commission have disappeared, if 
master and servant owned the only keys to the trunk? And what had the 
wretch to gain by his lying tale of Anna and Henry together in the post- 
house? Or if it were no lie But here his reeling fancy failed him. 

"You merit no lenience," he said in a calmer tone, "but so far shall 
I let mercy temper justice, I'll speak no more of casting you astern. Haply 
'twill be punishment enough to spend the balance of your years in Mary- 
land, since you fear it so. For the rest, confess and apologize to the whole 
ship's company at once, and let future merit atone for past defect." 

"Thou'rt a Solomon for judgment," Bertrand cried, "and a Christian 
saint for mercy!" 
"Let us go, then, and have done." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 223 ] 

"At once, at once, sir," the valet agreed, "if ye think it safe " 

"How should it be otherwise?" 

"Tis plain, sir," Bertrand explained, "there's more to this post of yours 
than meets the eye. I know not what passed 'twixt you and Lord Baltimore, 

nor is't my business to enquire what secret cause ye've sworn to further " 

Here Ebenezer let forth such a torrent of abuse that his valet had need 
to pause before continuing. "All in the world I mean, sir, is that your 
common garden laureate is not set upon by knaves and murtherers at every 
corner as I have been, nor is't a mere distaste for rhyme, methinks, that 
drives this villain Coode to seek ye out. For aught we know he may be 
on this ship; certain he's aboard the fleet, and Slye and Scurry as well " 

"Nay, not they," Ebenezer said, "but haply Coode." He described Bur- 
Kngame's strategem briefly. " 'Twas Henry bought a passage in your name," 
he explained, "and left the scoundrel stranded with the fleet." 

" Twill but inflame him more," said Bertrand, "and who knows what 
confederates might be with him? Belike he hath a spy on every boat!" 

" 'Twere not impossible, from what I've heard of him," Ebenezer ad- 
mitted, "But what's the aim of all this talk? Think you to persuade me 
into skulking caution and not to tell my office to the world? Is't to weasel 
out of penance and confession?" 

Bertrand protested vigorously against such misconstruction of his motives. 
"Confess I shall," he declared, "right readily, and mark it light penance 
for my imposture which pray recall I practiced for no vicious ends, but 
to save that part which makes man man. Yet penance ne'er healed wound, 
sir." He went on to praise the bounteous and forgiving nature of his master 
and to upbraid himself for repaying kindness with deceit not forgetting 
to justify once more his imposture and to review, apropos of nothing, sun- 
dry evidences of the high esteem and confidence in which old Andrew 
held him. At length he concluded by maintaining that what he sought 
was not mere penance but restitution; some means wherewith to atone 
for what humiliation and discomfort his wholly innocent imposture had 
occasioned the noblest master poor servingman ever served. 

"And what means is't you have in mind?" the poet asked warily. 

"Only to risk my life for yours," the valet said. "Whatever the cause you 
serve " 

"Enough, damn you! I serve the cause of Poetry,, and no other." 

"What I meant, sir, is that whatever Lord Baltimore That is to 

say " 

"'Sblood, then say it!" 



[ 224 ] J ^ E SOT-WEED FACTOR 



"Since I have played ye to your hurt," said Bertrand, "let me play ye 
to your profit. Let me dare the rascal Coode in your name, sir. If he do 
me in, 'twill be my just desert and your salvation; if not, there's always 
time for clean confession when we land. What say ye?" 

The plan so astonished Ebenezer that he could not at once find language 
strong enough to scourge the planner for his effrontery, and alas! the 
moment till he found his tongue discovered the scheme's unquestionable 
merits. The Laureateship was in truth a perilous post of that he'd proof 
enough by now, though u>/iy he'd still small notion; John Coode was un- 
deniably aboard the fleet and doubtless wroth at having been duped; 
Burlingame, despite his fanciful last assurances, was not on hand to protect 
him. Finally and most persuasively, the poet still shuddered at his morning's 
escape from Slye and Scurry at the King o* the Seas; only the appearance 
of Bertrand in the street had saved his life, 

"If 'twill ease your conscience," he said at last, "I cannot say ye nay, 
at least for the nonce 'twill give me time to write some verse below. But 
Coode or no Coode, Bertrand, I swear you this: 'tis the last time I'll be any 
man whatever save Eben Cooke. D'you hear?" 

"Very good, sir/' Bertrand nodded. "Shall I send word to the Captain?" 

"Word? Ah, yes that I'm thy Bertrand, a fop that makes pretense to 
glory. Aye, spread the word!" 



12: THE LAUREATE DISCOURSES ON GAMES OF 
CHANCE AND DEBATES THE RELATIVE GENTILITY OF 
VALETS AND POETS LAUREATE. BERTRAND SETS 
FORTH THE ANATOMY OF SOPHISTICATION AND 
DEMONSTRATES HIS THESIS 



WHEN THE POSEIDON, RUNNING BEFORE A FRESH BREEZE FROM THE 

northeast, left Lizard Point behind and in company with the rest of the 
fleet set her course southwest to the Azores, life on shipboard settled into 
its wonted order. The passengers had little or nothing to do: aside from 
the three daily messes and, for those who had the ingredients with them, 
the intervening teas, the only other event of the normal day was the an- 
nouncement of the estimated distance traveled during the past twenty-four 
hours. Among the gentlemen a good deal of money changed hands on 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 225 ] 

this announcement, and since servants, when idle, can become every bit 
as bored as their masters, they too made bets whenever they could afford to. 

The wagering, as a rule, was done at the second mess, since the runs 
were computed from noon to noon. Upon arising in the morning, every 
man sought out some member of the crew, to inquire about the progress 
of the night past; all morning the company watched the wind, and finally 
made their estimations. At midday the Captain himself mounted the poop 
deck, quadrant in hand, and on notice from the first mate that it was 
twelve o'clock sharp, made the traditional "noon sight" for longitude; re- 
tiring then to his quarters he computed latitude by dead reckoning from 
the compass course and the estimated distance run since the last measured 
elevation of the polestar before dawnwhich crucial figure was itself reck- 
oned from data in the ship's log concerning the direction and velocity of 
the wind, the height and direction of the seas, and the making, taking in, 
and setting of the sails,, together with the Captain's own knowledge of the 
direction and velocity of ocean currents in the general area at that particular 
time of year, and of the ability of each of his officers to get the most 
out of the men on his watch and the ship itself. Since even under full 
sail the Poseidon rarely made more than six miles per hour and never more 
than eight in other words, a fast walk the daily run could be anything 
from zero, given a calm (or, given stormy headwinds, even a negative 
quantity), up to one hundred ninety-two mileswhich theoretical maxi- 
mum, however, she never managed to attain. Having computed latitude and 
longitude, the Captain was able to plot the Poseidon's estimated position 
on his chart with parallel rule and dividers and, again allowing for winds, 
currents, the leeway characteristics of his vessel, and compass variation, 
he could give the helmsman a corrected course to steer until further notice. 
Finally he would enter the main cabin for his midday meal with the ladies 
and gentlemen among his passengers, who in the meantime had pooled 
their wagers and their estimates and, after announcing the official figure, 
he would bid the mate search out the closest approximation from among 
the folded bits of paper and identify the winner of the day. 

The basic gamble was the pool five to ten shillings a head, usually, for 
the gentlemen and ladies; a shilling or less for the servants but the more 
ambitious speculators soon contrived a variety of side bets: a maximum 
or minimum figure, for example, could be adjusted for virtually any odds 
desired, or one could gamble on a maximum or minimum differential be- 
tween each day's run and the next one. As the five days passed and boredom 
increased, the sport grew more elaborate, the stakes higher: one really im- 



[226] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

aginative young minister named George Tubman, suspected by the other 
passengers of being a professional gambler in disguise, devised a sliding- 
odds system for accepting daily bets on the date of raising Flores and Corvo 
the westerly isknds of the Azores a system whereby the announcement 
of each day's run altered the standing odds against each projected date- 
of-landfall according to principles best known to the clever young man 
who computed them, and one could in the light of each day's progress 
make new wagers to reinforce or compensate for the heightened or dimin- 
ished probability of one's previous wagers on the same event. This system 
had the advantages of cumulative interest and a tendency towards 
geometrically increasing stakes, for when a man saw his whole previous 
speculative investment imperiled by an unusually long or short day's run, 
he was naturally inclined to cover himself by betting, on what now seemed 
a more promising date, an amount equal to or exceeding the sum of his 
prior wagers; and since, of course, each day brought the Poseidon closer 
to a landfall and narrowed the range of speculation, the odds on the most 
likely dates lowered sharply, with the result that a man might invest five 
pounds at the going odds on a currently popular date in order to cover ten 
shillings previously wagered on a now unlikely one, only to find two or three 
days later that a third, much larger, bet was required to make good 
the second, or the first and second combined, and so forth. The excitement 
grew proportionately; even the Captain, though he shook his head at the 
ruinous size of the stakes, followed the betting with unconcealed interest, 
and the crew members themselves, who, of course, would not have been 
permitted to join in the game even if they could have afforded it, adopted 
favorites among the bettors, gave, or when possible sold, "confidential" in- 
formation on the ship's progress to interested parties, made private little 
wagers of their own on which of the passengers would win the most money, 
and ultimately, in order to protect their own bets, volunteered or accepted 
bribes to convey false information to bettors other than the one on whom 
their money was riding. 

For his part, Ebenezer wasted little interest at the outset on this activity, 
to which his attention had been called early in the first week of the voyage. 
One sparkling April morning Bertrand had approached him where he stood 
happily in the bow watching seagulls dive for fish, and had asked, in a 
respectful tone, his general opinion of gambling. In good spirits because 
of the weather and a commendable breakfast, and pleased to be thus con- 
sulted, Ebenezer had explored the subject cheerfully and at length. 

'To ask a man what he thinks of gambling is as much as to ask him what 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 227 ] 

he thinks of life/' was one of the positions he experimented with. "Doth 
not the mackerel gamble, each time he rises, that yonder gulls won't snatch 
him up, and the gulls make wager that they will? Are we not gamblers 
all, that match wits with the ocean on this ship of wood? Nay, life itself 
is but a lifelong gamble, is't not? From the moment of conception our 
life is on the line; every meal, every step, every turning is a dare to death; 
all men are the fools of chance save the suicide, and even he must wager 
that there is no Hell to fry in. Who loves life, then, perforce loves gambling, 
for he is Dame Chance's conquest. Moreover, every gambler is an optimist, 
for no man wagers who thinks to lose." 

Bertrand beamed. 'Then ye favor games of chance?" 

"Ah, ah/' the Laureate cautioned. He cocked his head, waggled a fore- 
finger, and quoted a proverb which unaccountably made him blush: "There 
are more ways to the woods than one. It could as well be argued that the 
gambler is a pessimistic atheist, inasmuch as he counts man's will as naught. 
To wager is to allow the sovereignty of chance in all events, which is 
as much as to say, God hath no hand in things." 

"Then ye don't look kindly on't after all?" 

"Stay, not so fast: one could as readily say the contrary that your 
Hobbesian materialist should never be a gambler, for no man gambles 
that doth not believe in luck, and to believe in luck is to deny blind chance 
and cold determinism, as well as the materialist order of things. Who 
says Yea to Luck, in short, had as well say Yea to God, and conversely." 

"In Heav'n's name, then!" Bertrand cried, rather less respectfully than 
at first. "What do ye think of gambling yea or nay?" 

But Ebenezer would not be pressed. " Tis one of those questions that 
have many sides," he said blithely, and by way of indicating that, for the 
present at least, he'd nothing farther to say on the subject turned his atten- 
tion again to the gulls: Contrary to his expectations,, his position aboard 
the Poseidon was turning out to be by no means altogether unpleasant. 
He had contrived to establish himself as being not another common servant 
but a kind of amanuensis to the Laureate, in which capacity he was per- 
mitted access to the quarter-deck at Bertrand's side and limited converse 
with the gentlemen; there was no need to conceal his education, since 
positions of the sort he pretended to were frequently filled by destitute 
scholars, and by making Bertrand out to be the lofty, taciturn variety of 
genius, he hoped to be able to speak for him more often than not and 
thus protect their disguise. Moreover, he could devote as much time as 
he chose to his notebook and even borrow books from the gentlemen pas- 



f 228 ] THE. SOT-WEED FACTOR 

sengers without arousing suspicion; an amanuensis was expected to busy 
himself with ink, paper, and books, especially when his employer was a poet 
laureate. In short, it became ever more clear to him as the voyage progressed 
that his role offered most of the privileges of his true identity and none of 
the dangers, and he counted the disguise among his happiest inspirations. 
While the servants relieved their ennui with gambling and gossip about 
their masters and mistresses, and the ladies and gentlemen with gambling 
and gossip about one another, Ebenezer passed the hours agreeably in the 
company of his own work or that of celebrated authors of the past, with 
whom, since his commission, he felt a strong spiritual kinship. 

Indeed, the only thing he really found objectionable, once his initial 
embarrassment was forgotten and he had grown accustomed to his position, 
was mealtimes. For one thing, the food was not what he had imagined: the 
last entry in his notebook, made just before he fell asleep in the stable 
of the King o' the Seas, had been: 

You ask, What eat our merry Band 
En Route to lovely MARYLAND? 
I answer. Ne'er were such Delights 
As met our Sea-sharp* d Appetites 
E'er serv'd to Jove and Junos Breed 
By Vulcan and by Ganymede* 

To which, during his very first day as Bertrand's amanuensis, he had ap- 
pended: 

The Finest from two Hemispheres, 
From roasted Beef to Quarter 1 d Deers; 
The Best of new and antick Worlds, 
Fine curry 7 d Lamb and basted Squirrek. 
We wash'd all down with liquid cheer 
Barbados Rum and English Beer. 
'Twere vain to seek a nobler Feast 
In legend' d West or story' d East, 
Than this our plenteous Shipboard Store 
Provided fey LORD BALTIMORE, 

This even though he had in fact seen nothing at either breakfast or dinner 
more exotic than eggs, fresh veal, and a few indifferently prepared vegetables. 
But three days sufficed to exhaust the Poseidon's store of every perishable 
foodstuff; on the fourth appeared instead, to Ebenezer's unhappy surprise, 
the usual fare of sailors and sea-travelers: a weekly ration of seven pounds 
of bread or ship biscuit for master and man alike, with butter scarce enough 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [229] 

to disguise its tastelessness; half a pound of salt pork and dried peas per 
man each mess for five days out of the week, and on the other two salt 
beef instead of pork except when the weather was too foul for the cook 
to boil the kettle, in which case every soul aboard made do for the day with 
a pound of English cheese and dreams of home. 

All this, however, was mere disillusionment, the fault not of Lord Balti- 
more, the captain of the Poseidon, or the social order, but merely of Eben- 
ezer's own naivete or, as he himself felt mildly, not troubling to put it 
into words, of the nature of Reality, which had failed to measure up to 
his expectations. In any case, though the food grew no more palatable, he 
soon became sufficiently inured to it not to feel disappointed between meals, 
A more considerable objection which led him one afternoon to profess 
his discontent to Bertrand was that he had to eat with the servants after 
the ladies and gentlemen were finished. 

"Think not 'tis the mere ignominy oft," he assured his valet hastily, 
"though in truth they are an uncouth lot and are forever making sport of 
me. Tis you I fear for; that you'll be drawn into talk at the Captain's table 
and discover yourself for an ass. Thrice daily I wait for news of your dis- 
grace, and despair of carrying the fraud to Maryland!" 

"Ah, now, sir, have no fear." They were in the ship's waist, and Bertrand 
seemed less concerned with Ebenezer's complaint than with watching a 
young lady who stood with the Captain by the taffrail. "There's no great 
trick to this gentleman business, that I can see; any man could play the 
part that hath a ready wit and keeps his eyes and ears open." 

"Indeed! I'd say so much for my disguise, perhaps; they are no fools 
you dine with, though, but men of means and breeding." 

But so far from being chastened by this remark, the valet actually chal- 
lenged it, still watching the maid more than his master while he talked. 

"Marry, sir, none knows better than your servant the merits of wealth 
and birth/' he declared benignly. "Yet, may I hang for't if any man was 
e'er more bright or virtuous for either." He went on to swear by all his 
experience with fine ladies and gentlemen, both as their servant and as 
their peer, that no poor scullery maid among Ebenezer's messmates was 
more a hussy than yonder maiden on the poop deck, for example, whom 
he identified as one Miss Lucy Robotham. "For all her fine clothes and 
fancy speech, sir, she blushed not a blush this noontime when the Captain 
pinched her 'neath the table, but smartly pinched him back! And not a 
half hour later, what time I took her hand to help her up the stairway, 
what did she do if not make a scratching in my palm? A whore's a whore 



[ 2 JO ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

whate'er her station" he concluded, "and a fool a fool whate'er his wealth! 9 

Ebenezer did not question the verity of this democratic notion, but he 
denied its relevance to the problem. " Tis not character and mother wit 
that make your gentleman, Bertrand," he said, adding the name in order 
to draw his man's eyes from Miss Robotham. " 'Tis manners and education. 
By a thousand signs the gentleman knows his peer a turn of phrase, a 
choice of wine, a flourish of the quill and by as many spies the fraud or 
parvenu. Be you never so practiced at aping 'em, 'tis but a matter of time 
till they find you out. A slip of the tongue, a slip of the fork: any trifle 
might betray you." 

"Aye," laughed the other, "but for what, prithee?" 

"Why, for not a gentleman 'to the manner born/ as't were!" Ebenezer 
was disturbed by the increasing arrogance of his servant, who had not 
wanted presumption to begin with. "How shall you answer them book for 
book, that have no books to your credit? How shall you hold forth on the 
new plays in London or the state of things on the Continent, that have 
not been through a university? Your true authentic gentleman is gallant 
but not a fop, witty but no buffoon, grave but not an owl, informed but 
not a pedant in sum, he hath of every quality neither excess nor defect, 
but the very Golden Mean." 

To which the valet rejoined with a wave and a smile, "Haply so, f faith, 
haply so!" And might have said more had not Ebenezer, his interest in 
the matter fanned by his growing irritation, at once resumed his discourse. 

"And just as the speech of the gentleman is to the speech of the crowd 
as is the lark's song to the rooster's but that of the poet like an angel's 
to the lark's, so the gentleman himself is a prince among men, and the 
poet should be a prince among gentlemen!" 

"Haply so, sir, haply 'tis so," Bertrand said again, and turning now to 
his master added, "But would ye believe it? So wretched is this memory 
of mine, that though I wrote out your commission word for word in ink, 
and saw clear as gospel where it caused a gentleman to be a laureate poet, 
I cannot summon up the part that makes your laureate be a gentleman! 
And so miserable are these eyes and ears, they've tricked me into thinking 
all the poets they e'er laid hold of such as Masters Oliver, Trent, and 
Merriweather back in London, to name no farther that all these rhyming 
wights have not a Golden Mean between 'em, nor yet a Brass or Kitchen- 
copper! 'Sblood, to speak plainly, they are sober as jackanapes, modest as 
peacocks, chaste as billy goats, soft-tongued as magpies, brave as church- 
mice, and mannerly as cats in heat! Your common, everyday valet, if I may 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 231 ] 

say so, is like to be twice the gentleman your poet e'er could dream of! 
Nay, he's oft a nicer spirit than the gentleman his master, as all the world 
knows, and hath not his peer for how wigs should be powdered or guests 
placed at table. 'Tis he and not your poet, I should say, that is the gentle- 
man's gentlemanl" 

Ebenezer was too taken aback by this outburst to do more than squint 
his eyes and cry "Stay!" But Bertrand would not be put off. 

"Yet as for that," he went on, " 'tis little stead my gentleman's lore stands 
me, now I'm a laureate poet! Marry, the ladies and gentlemen I've met, 
so far from seeing their poet as a gentleman, look on him as a sort of saint, 
trick ape, court fool, and gypsy soothsayer rolled in one. Your ladies tell 
me things no Popish priest e'er heard of, fuss over me as o'er a lapdog, and 
make me signs a gigolo would blush at; they worship and contemn me 
by turns, as half a god and half a traveling clown. And the gentlemen, 
f God! They think me mad or dullwitted out of hand; for who but your 
madman would turn his hand to verse, save one too numskulled to turn 
it to money? In short and in sum, sir, they'd call me no poet at all, or a 
poor one at best, if e'er I should utter e'en a sensible remark, to say nothing 
of a civil But think not I'm so fond as that!" 

Ebenezer's features roiled, settling finally into a species of frown. Really, 
the fellow had got impossible! Both men were given wholly to the argu- 
ment now, which had perforce to be conducted in low tones; they faced 
seawards, their elbows on the rail and their backs to Miss Robotham, who 
had descended from the high poop to the quarter-deck on the opposite 
side of the vessel. 

"I grant you this," he said, "that a prating coxcomb of a poet may be 
guilty of boorishness, as a bad valet may be guilty of presumption, and 
both may be guilty of affectation; I grant you farther that the best poet 
is never in essence a gentleman " 

"Unlike your best valet," Bertrand put in. 

"As for that," Ebenezer said sharply, "your valet that outshines his mas- 
ter in's knowledge of etiquette and fashion is like the rustic that can 
recite more Scripture than the theologian: his single gift betrays his limita- 
tions. The gentleman valet and the gentleman poet have this in common, 
that their gentlemanliness is for each a mask. But the mask of the valet 
masks a varlet, while the poet's masks a godl" 

"Oh la, sir!" 

"Let me finish!" Ebenezer's eyes were bright, his blond brows crooked 
and beetled. "Who more so than the poet needs every godlike gift? He 



[232] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

hath the painter's eye, the musician's ear, the philosopher's mind, the bar- 
rister's persuasion; like a god he sees the secret souls of things, the essence 
'neath their forms, their priviest connections. Godlike he knows the springs 
of good and evil: the seed of sainthood in the mind of murtherer,. the worm 
of lechery in the heart of a nun! Nay, farther: as the poet among gentle- 
men is as a pearl among polished stones, so must the Laureate be a diamond 
in the pearls, a prince among poets, their flower and exemplar even a 
prince among princes! To him do kings commit their secular immortality, 
as they commit their souls' to God! Small mystery that the first verse was 
religious and the earliest poets pagan priests, as some declare, or that Plato 
calls the source of poetry a divine madness like that of seers and sibyls. If 
your true poet strays from the path of good demeanor, 'tis but the mark 
of his calling, an access of the muse; yet the laureate, though in truth he 
hath by necessity the greatest infusion of this madness, must exercise a 
truly godlike self-restraint, for he is to men the ambassador and emblem 
of his art: he is obliged not only to his muse, but to his fellow poets as 
well." 

Thus argued the Laureate, whose esteem for his office had risen with each 
meal at the servants' mess; nor could Bertrand's most eloquent defense of 
the art of valetry quite mollify his discontent. 

" 'Tis your wish, then," Bertrand asked finally, "that in all things I play 
the gentleman?" 
"In every way." 

"And take their actions as my model?" 
"Nothing less." 

"Why, then, I must beg some money of ye, sir," he declared with a laugh, 
and explained that the last ten shillings of his own small savings had that 
very noon been sacrificed in the distance-run pool, in which as a gentleman 
he was absolutely obliged to participate. 

"Ah, 'twas for that you asked my thoughts on gambling some while past." 

"I must confess it," Bertrand said, and reminded his master that as much 

could be said in favor of gambling as against it. "Besides which, sir, I must 

keep on with't now I've begun, as well to guard our masks as to make good 

my losses." 

Now, Ebenezer himself had in reserve only what little he'd saved from 
his years with the merchant Peter Paggen, the whole of which did not 
exceed forty pounds; but at Bertrand's insistence that no smaller sum would 
do, he fetched out twenty from his trunk and, returning to the rail where 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 233 ] 

his proxy waited, passed him the money surreptitiously with suitable ad- 
monitions and enjoinders. 

At this point their conversation was interrupted by that same Miss 
Robotham earlier aspersed by Bertrand; at a thump on the shoulder they 
turned to find her standing close behind them, and Ebenezer paled at the 
thought of what perhaps she'd heard. 

"Madam!" he said, whipping off his hat. "Your servant!" 

" Tis your master I want/' the girl said, and turned her back to him. 
She was a brown-haired, excellently breasted maid of twenty years or so, 
and though a certain grossness both of manner and complexion showed 
a rustic, or at least colonial, essence beneath the elegance of her dress, yet 
it seemed likely to Ebenezer that she was more innocent than concupiscient. 
In fact, for the first time since describing his plight to Henry in the Plym- 
outh coach, he was reminded of Joan Toast, his delicate concern for whom 
had precipitated his departure from London: there was some similarity in 
eyes and skin and forthright manner. 

Bertrand, who had made no move to duplicate his master's courtesy, 
leaned upon the railing and regarded the visitor with a look of crude ap- 
praisal. Not daunted in the least, she clasped her hands pertly, bounced a 
few times on her heels, and said, "I've a literary question for you, Mr. 
Cooke." 

"Aha," said Bertrand, and chucked her under the chin. "What hath a 
tight young piece like you to do with literature, pray?" 

Ebenezer, as alarmed by the request as by his man's vulgarity, made 
haste to offer his services instead, suggesting that the Laureate should not 
be bothered with trifling questions. 

"Then what's the use of him?" the maid demanded, feigning a pout. 
Then she pursed her lips, arched her brows, and added merrily, still in 
Bertrand's direction, "Am I to suffer his lecherous stares for naught? He'll 
say what poet wrote Out, out, strumpet Fortune, and say't this instant, 
else my father shall know what poet tweaked me noontime where I blush 
to mention and left me a bruise to show for't!" 

"The moral to that," Bertrand said, "is, Who hath skirts of straw must 
needs stay clear of fire." 

"Moral! Thou'rt a proper priest to speak of morals! Enough now: who 
said Out, out, strumpet Fortune, Shakespeare or Marlowe? I've two bob 
on't with Captain Meech, that thinks him such a scholar." 

Alarmed lest his servant give the game away, either by his reply or by 



[234] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

his conduct^ Ebenezer was about to interrupt with the answer, but Bertrand 
gave him no opportunity. 

"Captain Meech, is't!" he exclaimed, with a teasing frown and a sidelong 
look. 'Til bet two bob myself that for any bruise o' mine ye've three of 
his to sit on!" 

Miss Robotham and Ebenezer both protested, the latter genuinely. 

"No? Take a pound on't, then," Bertrand laughed. "My pound against 
your shilling. But mind, I must see the proof myself!" He then asked what 
poet she'd bet on, offering to swear that man had penned the line. 

"The Laureate hath not his peer for gallantry," Ebenezer observed with 
relief to Miss Robotham's youthful back. "And in sooth, if chivalry be 
served, what matters it that William " 

"Oh no," the girl protested, cutting him off, 'Til have no favors from 
you, Mister Laureate, for I well know what 'twill cost me in the end! Be- 
sides which, I know the answer for a fact, and want no more than to hav't 
confirmed: 

Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! Ml you gods 

In general synod take away her power. 

Knock all her spokes and fellies out, 

And bowl the round nave down the hill of Heaven, 

As low as to the fiends!" 

"Well done, well done!" Ebenezer applauded. "The Player himself 
pleased Hamlet no more with't than you " 

"Marry, all those knaves and strumpets!" Bertrand exclaimed. "Whoever 
wrote it is a randy wight, now, ain't he? To speak the truth, young lady, 
I might have scratched it out myself, for aught I know." 

"If you please, ma'am!" Ebenezer cried, aghast at Bertrand's ignorance 
and the peril of the situation. This time he forced himself between them 
and took her arm as though to lead her off. "You must forgive my rudeness, 
but I cannot let you annoy the Laureate farther!" 

"Annoy him!" Miss Robotham snatched her arm away. "Me annoy him!' 7 

"I quite commend your interest in verse, which is rare enough e'en in 
a London girl," the poet went on, speaking rapidly and glancing about to 
see if others were watching them, "and 'tis no reflection on your rearing 
that you presume so on this great man's gallantry, seeing thou'rt from the 
plantations; yet I must explain " 

"Hear the wretch!" Miss Robotham applied for sympathy first to an 
imaginary audience and then specifically to Captain Meech, whom she saw 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2 35 1 

approaching from aft, "I ask Mr. Cooke a civil question, and this fellow 
calls me a mannerless bumpkin!" 

"Never mind him," the Captain said good-humoredly, not without a 
brief scowl at the offender. "Who wins the bet?" 

"Oh, everybody knows 'twas Shakespeare wrote it," she said, "but Mr. 
Cooke's as great a tease as you: he swears 'twas he himself." 

"Grand souls are ever wont to speak in epigrams," Ebenezer explained 
desperately. "Haply it seemed a mere tease on the face oft, but underneath 
'tis deep enough a thought: the Laureate means that one great poet feels 
such kinship with another, in's the service of the Muse, 'tis as if Will Shakes- 
peare and Ebenezer Cooke were one and the selfsame man!" 

"My loss, then," sighed the Captain, more in reply to Miss Robotham's 
remark than to Ebenezer's. "Henceforth," he promised Bertrand, "I'll 
stick to my last and leave learning to the learned." 

"Heav'n forbid!" Bertrand laughed. He had paid no heed whatever to 
Ebenezer's previous alarm. "I lose enough on your seamanship without 
betting against ye in the pool!" 

Captain Meech then declaring with a wink that all his money was in 
his quarters, Miss Robotham strode off on his arm to collect her winnings. 

Bertrand looked after them enviously. "By God, that is a saucy piece!" 

"Tis all up with us!" Ebenezer groaned, as soon as the couple was 
out of earshot. "You've spiked our guns for fair!" He turned again to 
the ocean and buried his face in his hands. 

"What? Not a bit oft! Did ye see how she purred when I chuckled her 
chin?" 

"You treated her like a two-shilling tart!" 

"No more than what she is," Bertrand said. "D'ye think she's playing 
at cards with Meech right now?" 

"But her father is Colonel Robotham of Talbot County, that used to 
sit on the Maryland Council!" 

Bertrand was unimpressed. "I know him well enough. Yet 'tis a queer 
father will hear his daughter prate of knaves and strumpets, I must say, 
and recite her smutty verses at the table." 

"God save us!" cried the Laureate. "Where were we now had I not been 
here to gloss your answer and turn your babbling into sense? Marry, if 
you don't discover us with your blunders, you'll have us horsewhipped 
with your foul behavior! Speak no more of the valet's refinement, i'God; 
I've seen enough oft, and of his ignorance!" 

"Ah now, compose thyself," said Bertrand. "Twas the Laureate I was 



[ 236 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

playing, not the valet, or ye'd have seen refinement and to spare. I knew 
what I was about." 

"You knew " 

"As for this same raillery and bookish converse your fine folk set such 
store by/' he went on testily, "any gentleman's gentleman like myself that 
hath stood off a space and seen it whole can tell ye plainly the object oft, 
which is: to sound out the other fellow's sentiments on a matter and 
then declare a cleverer sentiment yourself. The difference here 'twixt simple 
and witty folk, if the truth be known, is that your plain man cares much 
for what stand ye take and not a fart for why ye take it, while your smart 
wight leaves ye whatever stand ye will, sobeit ye defend it cleverly. Add to 
which, what any valet can tell ye, most things men speak of have but two 
sides to their name, and at every rung on the ladder of wit ye hear one 
held forth as gospel, with the other above and below." 
"Ladder of wit! What madness is this?" Ebenezer demanded. 
"No madness save the world's, sir, if ye'll see the matter whole. Take 
your wig question, now, that's such a thing in London: whether to wear 
a bob or a full-bottom peruke. Your simple tradesman hath no love for 
fashion and wears a bob on's natural hair the better to labor in; but give 
him ten pound and a fortnight to idle, he'll off to the shop for a great 
French shag and a ha'peck of powder, and think him the devil's own fellow! 
Then get ye a dozen such idlers; the sharpest among 'em will buy him 
a bob wig with lofty preachments on the tyranny of fashion haven't I 
heard 'em! and think him as far o'er his full-bottomed fellows as they 
o'er the merchants' sons and bob-haired 'prentices. Yet only climb a rung 
the higher, and it's back to the full-bottom, on a sage that's seen so many 
crop-wigs feigning sense, he knows 'tis but a pose of practicality and gets 
him a name for the cleverest of all by showing their sham to the light of 
day. But a grade o'er him is the bob again, on the pate of some philosopher, 
and over that the full-bottom, and so on. Or take your French question: 
the rustical wight is all for England and thinks each Frenchman the Devil 
himself, but a year in London and he'll sneer at the simple way his farm 
folk reason. Then comes a man who's traveled that road who says, Tlague 
take this foppish shill-I, shall-l! When all's said and done 'tis England 
to the end!'; and after him your man that's been abroad and vows 'tis not 
a matter of sMl-I, shall-I to one who's traveled, for no folk are cleverer 
than the clever French, 'gainst which your English townsman's but a bump- 
kin. Next yet's the man who's seen not France alone but every blessed 
province on the globe; he says 'tis the novice traveler sings such praise 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 237 ] 

for Paristhe man who's seen 'em all comes home to England and carries 
all's refinement in his heart. But then comes your grand skeptical philos- 
opher, that will not grant right to either side; and after him a grander, 
that knows no side is right but takes sides anyway for the clever nonsense 
oft; and after him your worldly saint, that says he's past all talk of wars and 
kings fore'er, and gets him a great name for virtue. And after him " 

''Enough, I beg you!" Ebenezer cried, "My head spinsl For God's sake 
what's your point?" 

"No more than what I said before, sir: that de'il the bit ye've tramped 
about the world, and bleared your eyes with books, and honed your wits 
in clever company, whate'er ye yea is nay'd by the man just a wee bit simpler 
and again by the fellow just a wee bit brighter, so that clever folk care less 
for what ye think than why ye think it. 'Tis this that saves me." 

But Ebenezer could not see why. " Tis that shall scotch you, I should 
fancy! A fool can parrot a wise man's judgment but never hope to defend 
it." 

"And only a fool would try/' said Bertrand, with upraised finger. 'Your 
poet hath no need to." 

Ebenezer's features did a dance. 

"What I mean, sir," Bertrand explained, "when they come upon me with 
one of their mighty questionsonly yestere'en, for instance, they'd have 
me say my piece on witchery, whether I believed in it or no why, all 
I do is smile me a certain smile and say, Why not?' and there's an end 
on'tl The ones that agree are pleased enough, and as for the skeptical 
fellows, they've no way to tell if I'm a spook-ridden dullard or a breed of 
mystic twice as wise as they. Your poet need never trouble his head to 
explain at all: men think he hath a passkey to Dame Truth's bedchamber 
and smiles at the scholars building ladders in the court. This Civility and 
Sense ye preach of are his worst enemies; he must pinch the ladies' bosoms 
and pull the schoolmen's beards. His manner is his whole argument, as't 
were, and that certain whimsical smile his sole rebuttal." 

"No more," Ebenezer said sharply. "I'll hear no more!" 

Bertrand smiled his whimsical smile. "Yet surely 'tis the simple truth?" 

"There is skin of truth on't, yes," the Laureate granted; "but 'tis like 
the mask of sense on a madman or a film of ice on a skaters' pond it 
only makes what lies beneath more sinister." 

Just then the bell was rung for the gentlemen and ladies to come to 
supper. 



[ 238 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Tis our goose that's cooked/ 7 Ebenezer said gloomily. "You'll see 
this hour Miss Robotham marked your ignorance/' 

"Haply so/ 7 said Bertrand with his smile, "but I'd stake your last farthing 
she thinks I'm a bloody Solomon. We'll know soon enough who's right." 

It was, in fact, closer to four hours before the Laureate was able to speak 
privately with his man again, for long after the servants had themselves 
finished eating, the fine folk lingered at cards and brandy in the main 
cabin. Their very merriment, of coursethe sounds of which Ebenezer 
heard clearly where he stood by the foremast, brooding on the moonlit 
oceanseemed to indicate that nothing was seriously amiss; nevertheless 
his exasperation was tempered by relief when finally he saw Bertrand emerge 
on the quarter-deck with Captain Meech himself, still laughing at some 
private joke, and fire up his pipe at the smoking-lamp. The poet felt a 
pang of envy: he was not pleased with the progress of events, especially 
his servant's insolent assurance. Yet it was not Bertrand's manner alone 
that disturbed him; the truth was, he found the man's cynical argument 
as attractive as his own idealistic reply and was at bottom satisfied with 
neither. For that reason, when he asked what had been said at supper con- 
cerning the literary wager of the afternoon, he was, if saddened, not sur- 
prised by the report. 

" Twas the talk of the table, right enough, sir." Bertrand puffed and 
frowned at his pipe. "The Robotham wench told what I'd said and how 
ye'd glossed it, word for word. To speak plainly, sir, the Colonel, her 
father, then asked me why I abided so brash a servant, if ye'll pardon me, 
as presumes to speak fofs master. The rest took up the cry, and the young 
piece said at last, one could know me for a poet by the look of me, and 
yourself for a byo- . . . beo- . . . something or other." 

"Boeotian" the Laureate said glumly. 

"Aye. Twas another of her smutty words. 7 ' 

Ebenezer then inquired, not enthusiastically, what answer his man had 
made. 

"What could I say, to end their gossip? I told 7 em flat that naught matters 
in a secretary save his penmanship. The Captain then summoned up old 
strumpet Fortune again, that seems their favorite bawd: he knew the pas- 
sage through, he said, but had forgot just when 'twas spoke in some play 
or other he named." 

"Ah." Ebenezer closed his eyes almost hopefully. "Then 'tis over and 
done with us, after all." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [239] 

"How's that, sir? I didn't bat an eyelash, thankee, but declared 'twas 
spoke on shipboard an hour past noon, when the poet lost his last quid 
on a short day's run." He pulled again on his pipe and spat with satisfaction 
at the rolling ocean. "No more was said oft after that." 



13: THE LAUREATE, AWASH IN A SEA OF DIFFICULTIES, 
RESOLVES TO BE LAUREATE, NOT BEFORE INDITING 
FINAL SEA-COUPLETS 



AFTER THE FOREGOING CONVERSATIONS WITH BERTRAND, EBENEZER'S 

dissatisfaction with his position was no longer confined to mealtimes; rather, 
he took to a general brooding and spiritual malaise. He could write no 
verse: even the sight of a school of great whales, which in happier times 
would have set his fancy spinning, now called forth not a single rhyme. 
At best he had got on indifferently with his messmates; now they sensed 
his distaste, and resentment added malice to the jokes they made at his 
expense. When, therefore, after perhaps a week of this solitary discontent, 
Bertrand confided to him with a happy leer that Lucy Robotham was about 
to become the Maryland Laureate's mistress, his reaction to the news was 
anything but hospitable. 

"You lay a finger on her/' he threatened, "and you'll finish your crossing 
in leg irons." 

"Ah, well, 'tis a little late for that advice, sir; the quail is bagged and 
plucked, and wants but basting on the spit." 

"No, I sayl" Ebenezer insisted, as much impatient as appalled. "Why 
must I say it twice? Your gambling runs counter to my better judgment, 
but fornication 'tis counter to my very essence!" 

Bertrand was altogether unruffled by his master's ire. "Not in the least," 
he said. "A poet without a mistress is a judge without a wig: 'tis the 
badge of his office, and the Laureate should keep a staff of 'em. My sole 
concern is to play the poet well, sir." 

Ebenezer remained unpersuaded. " 'Tis an overnice concern that makes 
a whore of the Colonel's daughter!" 

Here Bertrand protested that in fact his interest in Lucy Robotham was 
largely dispassionate: Colonel Robotham, he had learned, was one of 
the original conspirators with John Coode who had overthrown Lord 



[ 240 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Baltimore's government in 1689, and, for all he was sailing presently under 
Governor Nicholson's protection, he might well be still in secret league 
with the insurrectionists. " Twould not surprise me/' 'he declared, "if old 
Robotham's using the girl for bait. Why else would he watch us carry on 
so without a word? Aye, by Heav'n, I'll hoist him with his own petard!" 

In the face of this new information and his valet's apparent talent for 
intrigue, Ebenezer's resolve began to weaken: his indignation changed to 
petulance. "You've a Sophist's gift for painting vice in virtue's color," he 
said. " Tis clear thou'rt out to make the most of my name and office." 

"Then I have your leave, sir?" 

"I wonder you even trouble to ask it these days." 

"Ah, thankee, sir!" Bertrand's voice showed obvious relief. "Thou'rt a 
gentleman to the marrow and have twice the understanding of any wight 
on the boat! I knew ye for a fine soul the first I e'er laid eyes on you, when 
Master Andrew sent me to look to your welfare in London. In every 
thing " 

"Enough; you sicken me," the poet said. "What is't thou'rt after now, 
for God's sake? I know this flattery will cost me dear." 

"Patience, I pray ye, sir," Bertrand pleaded in a tone quite other than 
that of his earlier conversations; he was for the nonce entirely the valet 
again. After reaffirming at length his faith in Ebenezer's understanding 
and their mutual interest in preserving their disguise, and asserting as well 
that they were of one mind as regarded the importance of gentlemanly 
wagering to that disguise, he confessed that he needed additional subsidiz- 
ing to maintain appearances, and this at once. 

"Dear God!" the Laureate cried. "You've not lost twenty pounds so 
soon!" 

Bertrand nodded confirmation and explained that he'd wagered heavily 
in side bets on the past day's run in order to recoup his former losses, but 
that despite his most careful calculations he'd lost by a paltry mile or so 
to Miss Robotham, who he suspected had access to private information 
from the Captain. " 'Tis but another case of influence over merit," he con- 
cluded with a philosophic sigh. 

"Half my savings! And you've gall enough to ask for the rest to throw 
after it!" 

"Far from it, sir," Bertrand declared. "On the contrary, I mean not only 
to win your money and mine again, but to pay it back fivefold. 'Tis for 
this as much as anything I need the Robotham wench/' The Poseidon, 
he said, was near the end of her second week of southwestering, and the 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 241 ] 

wise money placed the Azores only two or three days distant. So likely was 
this landfall, in fact, that the bet-covering parson Mr. Tubman demanded a 
pound for every shilling on those two dates, whereas any date before or 
afterwards fetched most lucrative odds. Bertrand's plan, then, was to 
make such a conquest of Miss Robotham that she would turn to his ac- 
count all her influence with Captain Meech: if his private estimate of the 
date of landfall was other than the prevailing opinion, Bertrand would 
place all his money on and around the new date; if the Captain's guess 
concurred with that of the passengers, Miss Robotham would employ every 
art and wile to induce him to sail more slowly and raise the islands on 
some later date. Either way, he assured Ebenezer, the prospect of enrich- 
ing themselves was so certain that it could scarce be called a wager at all. 

"Marry, you give me little choice!" Ebenezer said bitterly when his man 
had finished. "First you make it seem not foolish to take the girl, then you 
make it downright prudent, and now you make it necessary, albeit you 
know as well as I at bottom 'tis naught but prurience and luxury. Take 
the wench, and my money as well! Make me a name for a gambling 
whoremonger and have done with't!" 

Having thus given vent to his feelings, he fetched out his last twenty 
pounds from the trunk and with great misgivings tendered the sum to 
Bertrand, appealing a final time to the man's discretion. The servant 
thanked him as one gentleman might thank another for a trifling loan and 
went to setk out Lucy Robotham. 

Following this transaction the poet's melancholia grew almost feverish. 
All day he languished in his berth or slouched ungracefully at the rail to 
stare at the ocean; Bertrand's announcement, delivered next morning with 
a roll of the eyes, that the seduction of Miss Robotham was an accom- 
plished fact, elicited only a sigh and a shake of his master's head; and 
when in an attempt at cheerfulness the valet subsequently declared him- 
self ready to have his way with strumpet Fortune, the Laureate's listless 
reply was "Who trafficks with strumpets hath a taste for the pox/' 

He was, as he himself recognized without emotion, very near a state 
like that from which he'd been saved once by Burlingame and again, un- 
intentionally, by John McEvoy. What saved him this time was an event 
actually in keeping with his mood: on the first of the two "wise money" 
days the fleet encountered its first really severe weather. The wind swung 
round from north to southwest, increased its velocity, and brought with it 
a settled storm of five days' duration. The Poseidon pitched, yawed, and 
rolled in the heavy seas; passengers were confined below decks most of the 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

day. The smell of agitated bilge water permeated the cabins, and even 
the sailors grew seasick. Ebenezer fell so ill that for days he could scarcely 
eat at the servants' mess; he left his berth only when nature summoned 
him either to the ship's rail or to the chamberpot. Yet, though he voiced 
his misery along with the others, he had not, like them, any fervent wish 
for calm: to precipitate a cataclysm is one thing, and requires resolution 
at the least; but to surrender to and embrace an already existing cataclysm 
wants no more than despair. 

He did not see Bertrand again until late in the fifth and final day of 
the storm, which was also the most severe. All through the lightless day 
the Posiedon had shuddered along under reefed topsails, the wind having 
shifted to the northeast, and at evening the gale increased. Ebenezer was 
on the quarter-deck, in his innocence heaving over the windward rail and 
in his illness oblivious to the unsavory results. Here he was joined by his 
valet, as usual dressed in his master's clothes, who had come on deck for 
the same purpose and who set about the work with similar untidiness. For 
awhile they labored elbow to elbow in the growing dark; presently Ebenezer 
managed to ask, "What odds doth the Reverend Tubman give on living 
through this night? I'd make no bets on't." 

At this Bertrand fell to a perfect fit of retching. "Better for all if the 
bloody boat goes under!" he replied at last. " Tis not a fart to me if I 
live, or die." 

"Is this the Laureate I hear?" Ebenezer regarded his man's irifsery with 
satisfaction. 

"Don't speak the word! 7 ' Bertrand moaned and buried his face in his 
hands. "God curse the day I e'er left London!" 

At every new complaint, Ebenezer's stomach grew easier. "But how is 
this?" he asked sarcastically. "You'd rather be a gelded servingman in Lon- 
don than a gentleman poet with a mistress and a fortune? I cannot fathom 
it!" 

"Would God Ralph Birdsall had untooled me!" Bertrand cried. "Man's 
cod's a wretched handle that woman leads him 'round with. Oh, the whore! 
The treacherous,, lying whore!" 

Now the poet's satisfaction turned to real delight. "Aha, so the cock 
must 4 crow Cuckoo! By Heav'n, the wench doth well to horn you, that 
make such sport of horning'others!" 

"Nay, God, ye must not praise the slut!" 

"Not praise her? She hath my praise and my endorsement; she hath my 
blessing " 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 243 ] 

"She hath your money too," said Bertrand, "all forty pound of it." And 
seeing his master too thunderstruck to speak, he told the tale of his decep- 
tion. The Robotham girl, he said, had sworn her love for him, and on the 
strength of it had six days ago, by her own tearful account, mortgaged her 
honor to the extent of permitting Captain Meech certain liberties with her 
person, in return wherefor she was able to advise Bertrand to put his money 
on a date several days later than the favored ones: she had it straight from 
the Captain that, though Flores was indeed but one day off, a storm was 
brewing on the south horizon that could set them back a hundred miles 
with ease. At the same time she cautioned him not to disclose his wager 
but to give out that he too was betting on the popular dates; she would 
see to it, she vowed, that the bookmaking minister held his tongue True 
love recks not the cost! Finally, should the Poseidon not raise Flores on 
the proper day, she had a maid with whom the lookout on the larboard 
watch had fallen quite in love and for whose favors he would swear to 
raising the jasper coasts of Heaven. 

Thus assured, Bertrand had put his money at fifteen to one on the day 
to follow this present day but alas, as he saw too clearly now, the wench 
had worked a manifold deception! Her real lover, it appeared, was no other 
soul than the Reverend Tubman himself, for the sake of whose solvency 
she had led every poor fool in the group to think her his secret mistress 
and bet on the selfsame date. Then when the storm arrived on schedule, 
how they all had cursed and bemoaned their losses, each laughing up his 
sleeve at his advantage over the rest! But now, on the eve of their 
triumph; on this very day of our Lord which might well be their last; in 
short, one hour ago, the larboard lookout had sworn to sighting the moun- 
tains of Corvo from his perch in the maintop, and though no other eye 
save his had seen them, Captain Meech had made the landfall official. 

As though to confirm the valet's story, Captain Meech just then ap- 
peared on the poop and ordered the ship hove to under reefed fore-topsail 
a measure that the gale alone made prudent, whether Corvo lay to lee- 
ward or not. Indeed, the mate's command to strike the main and mizzen 
topsails was behindhand, for while the men were still in the ratlines 
a gust split all three sails and sprang the mizzenmast as well. The foresail 
itself was raised instead, double-reefed, to keep the ship from broaching 
to until a new fore-topsail could be bent to its yard; then the crew hurried 
to clear the wildly flapping remnants of the mizzen topsail and none 
too soon, for at the next strong gust on the weakened spar a mizzen shroud 
parted with the crack of a pistol shot. 



[244] THE SOT-WEED FACTO& 

It was at this least fortunate of moments that Ebenezer, sickened anew 
by the tidings of his ruin, leaned out again over the rail: the fiddle-tight 
shroud lashed back and smacked him on the transom, and he was horrified 
to find himself, for an instant, actually in the sea beside the ship! No 
one saw him go by the board; -the officers and crew had their hands full, 
and Bertrand, unable to look his master in the eye during the confession, 
still cowered at the rail with his face in his arms. He could not shout for 
coughing up sea-water, but nothing could have been done to save him 
even in the unlikely event that anyone heard his cries. In short, it would 
have been all over with him then and there had not the same wind that 
formerly returned his heavings to him now blown the top off the next 
great wave: crest, spray, and senseless poet tumbled back aboard, along 
with numerous tons of green Atlantic Ocean, and for better or worse the 
Laureate was safe. 

However, he did not regain his consciousness at once. For what could 
to him have been as well an hour or a year he languished in a species of 
euphoria, oblivious to his surroundings and to the passage of time, even 
to the fact that he was safe. It was a dizzy, dreamlike state, for the most 
part by no means unpleasant, though interrupted now and then by short 
periods of uncertain straggling accompanied by vague pain. Sometimes he 
dreatned not nightmares at all but oddly tranquil visions. Two recurred 
with soine frequency: the first and most mysterious was of twin alabaster 
mountain cones, tall and smoothly polished; old men were seated on the 
peaks, and around the bases surged a monstrous activity the nature of which 
he could not make out. The other was a recapitulation of his accident, 
in a strangely altered version: he was in the water beside the Poseidon, 
but the day was gloriously bright instead of stormy; the tepid sea was green, 
glass calm, and not even wet; the ship, though every sail was full, moved 
not an inch away; not Bertrand, but his sister Anna and his friend Henry 
Burlingame watched him from the quarter-deck, smiling and waving, and 
instead of terror it was ecstasy that filled the poet's breast! 

When at length he came fully to his senses, the substance of these dreams 
defied recall, but their tranquility came with him to the waking world. He 
lay peacefully for a long time with his eyes open, admitting reality a fact 
at a time into his consciousness. To begin with, he was alive a certain 
dizziness, some weakness of the stomach, and sharp pains in his buttocks 
vouched for that, though he felt them with as much detachment as if 
the ailing members were not his. He remembered the accident without 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 245 ] 

alarm, but knew neither how it had occurred nor what had saved him. 
Even the memory that Bertrand had lost all his money, which followed 
immediately after, failed to ruffle his serenity. Gradually he understood 
that he was lying in a hammock in the fo'c'sle: he knew the look of the 
place from his earlier confinement there. The room was shadowy and full 
of the smells of lamp-oil and tobacco-smoke; he heard occasional short 
laughs and muttered curses, and the slap of playing-cards; somewhere near 
at hand a sleeper snored. It was night, then. Last of all he realized that 
the ship was riding steady as a church, at just the slightest angle of heel: 
the storm had passed, and also the dangerous period of high seas and no 
wind that often follows storms at sea; the Poseidon was making gentle way. 

Though he was loath to leave that pleasant country where his spirit had 
lately traveled, he presently swung his legs out of the hammock and sat 
up. In other hammocks all around him men were sleeping, and four sailors 
played at cards on a table near the center of the room. 

"Marry!" one of them cried. "There stirs our sleeping beauty!" The rest 
turned round with various smiles to look. 

"Good evening/' Ebenezer said. His voice was weak, and when he stood 
erect his legs gave way, and the sharp pain in his buttocks recommenced. 
He grasped a bulkhead for support. 

"What is't, lad?" a smiling jack inquired. "Got a gimp?" 

At this the party laughed aloud, and though the point of the joke es- 
caped him, Ebenezer smiled as well: the strange serenity he'd waked with 
made it of no importance that their laughter was doubtless at his expense. 

"Belike I took a fall," he said politely. "I hurt a little here and there." 

" Twere a nine-day wonder if ye didn't!" an old fellow cackled, and 
Ebenezer recognized that same Ned who'd first delivered him into Ber- 
trand's presence and had pinched him so cruelly into the bargain. The 
others laughed again, but bade their shipmate be silent. 

A third sailor, somewhat less uncouth appearing than the rest, made 
haste to say, "What Ned means is, small wonder ye've an ache or two 
where the mizzen shroud struck ye." He indicated a small flask near at 
hand. "Come have a dram to steady yourself while the mate's on deck." 

"I thank you," Ebenezer said, and when he had done shivering from 
the rum he mildly asked, "How is't I'm here?" 

"We found ye senseless on the main deck in the storm/' the sailor said. 
"Ye'd near washed through the scuppers." 

"Chips yonder used your berth for planking," old Ned added gleefully, 



[ 246 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

and indicated the sailor who had spoken firsta lean, sandy fellow in his 
forties. 

"No offense intended, mind," said the carpenter, playing another card. 
"We was taking water aft, and all my planks was washed by the board. 
I asked in the 'tween decks which berth to use, and yours was the one they 
showed me/' 

"Ah well, Fll not miss their company, I think." On further questioning 
Ebenezer learned that his unconsciousness had lasted three days and 
nights, during which time he'd had no food at all. He was ravenously hun- 
gry; the cook, rather expecting him to die, had left no rations for him, 
but the crewmen readily shared their bread and cheese. They showed con- 
siderable curiosity about his three-day coma: in particular, had he felt not 
anything at all? His assurance that he had not seemed greatly to amuse them. 

"Out on't, then!" the carpenter declared. "Tis over and done with, 
mate, and if aught's amiss, bear in mind we thought ye a dying man." 

"Amiss?" Ebenezer did not understand. By this time the rum had 
warmed his every member, and the edge was off his hunger. In the lantern 
light the fo'c'sle looked quite cozy. He had not lately met with such hos- 
pitality as had been shown him by these uncouth sailors, who doubtless 
knew not even his pseudonym, to say nothing of his real identity. "If aught's 
amiss," he asserted warmly, " 'tis that in my muddled state I've made no 
proper thanks for all your kindness. Would God I'd pence to pay you for't, 
though I know 'twas natural goodness moved you and not the landsman's 
grubby wish for gold. But I'm a pauper." 

"Think never a fart oft," one of the men replied. "'Tis your master's 
lookout. Drink up, now." 

The Laureate smiled at their innocence and took another drink. Should 
he tell them who in fact they were so kind to? No, he decided affectionately; 
let virtue be its own reward. He called to mind tales of kings in humble 
dress, going forth among their subjects; of Christ himself, who sometimes 
traveled incognito. Doubtless they would one day learn the truth, from 
some poem or other that he'd write: then the adventure would become 
a legend of the fo'c'sles and a telling anecdote in biographies to come. 

The sailors' cordial attitude prevailed through the following fortnight, 
as did the poet's remarkable tranquility. This latter, at least, he came in- 
creasingly to understand: the second of his euphoric visions had come 
back to him, and he saw in it, with a quiet thrill, a mystic affirmation of 
his calling, such as those once vouchsafed to the saints. What was this 
ship, after all, but the Ship of Destiriy, from which in retribution for his 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 247 ] 

doubts he had been cast? What was the ocean but a Font of Rededication, 
a moral bath to cleanse him of despair and restore him to the Ship? The 
message was unequivocal even without the additional, almost frightening 
miracle that he had unwittingly predicted it! Hence Burlingame's presence 
on the dream ship, for he it was, in the King o' the Seas (that is to say, 
Poseidonl) who had scoffed at the third line of Ebenezefs quatrain 

"Let Ocean roar his damn'dest Gde: 
Our Planks shan't leak; our Masts shan't fail; 
With great Poseidon by our Side 
He seemeth neither wild nor wide. 

which, he claimed, placed the poet in the ocean. Ebenezer thought warmly 
of his friend and teacher, who for all he knew might long since have been 
found out by Slye and Scurry and sent to a watery grave. Henry had been 
skeptical of the laureateship, no doubt about it 
"Would God I had him here, to tell this wonder to!" 
Since the momentous sighting of Corvo in the Azores, the Poseidon 
had been sailing a due westerly course along the thirty-seventh parallel of 
latitude, which if all went well would lead her straight to the Virginia Capes. 
The lengthy storm had scattered the fleet to the four winds, so that not 
another sail was visible on the horizon; but Captain Meech looked to 
overhaul the flagship any day^, which he reckoned to be ahead of them. 
Although some time had been lost in making repairs, when Chips com- 
pleted a masterful scarfing of the damaged spar the Poseidon bowled along 
for days on end in a whole-sail breeze. They were five weeks out of Plym- 
outh; May was upon them, and landfall again on everybody's lips. 

During this period Ebenezer seldom left the foVsle: for one thing, it 
took him a while to regain his strength; for another, he had no desire to 
see his former messmates again, and anyway his musings kept him pleasantly 
occupied. Bertrand, of course, he could not avoid some contact with, but 
their meetings were brief and uncommunicative the valet was uncertain 
of his position, and Ebenezer, besides enjoying the man's discomfort, had 
nothing to say to him. Though he could entertain no more illusions about 
the ship's magnificence, his admiration for the sailors had increased tenfold. 
His despair was gone completely: with tranquil joy he watched the dolphins 
roll along the freeboard and in the wake and, caught up in the general 
anticipation, he sharpened his quills, got out the volumes of Milton and 
Samuel Butler that he used as references, and hatched the following cou- 
plets to describe the great event that lay ahead: his first glimpse of Mary- 
land. 



[248] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Belike Ulysses, wncTring West 

From Ilions Sack, in Tatters drest, 

And weary' d of his ten-year Roam 

O'er wat'ry Wilds of desart Foam. 

Beholding Ithaca at last 

And seeing all his Hardship past, 

Did swear 'twas Heav'ns own Shore he'd rais'd, 

So lovely seem'd it as he gaz'd, 

Despite its Rocks and Fearsome Coast. 

How Heav'nlier, then, this Land I boast, 

Whose golden Sands and verdant Trees 

And Harbours snug, designed to ease 

The Sailors Burthen, greet the Eye 

With naught save Loveliness! Nay, try 

As best it might, no Poets Song, 

Be't e'er so sweet or ne'er so long, 

Could tell the Whole of MARYLANDS Charms, 

When from the Oceans boundless Harms 

The Trav r ler comes unscath'd at last, 

And from his Vessels loftiest mast 

He first beholds her Beautyl 

To which, at the foot of the ledger-sheet, he duly appended E.G., G^*, 
P t & V of M d , and regarded the whole with a satisfaction such as he 
had not felt since the night of Joan Toast's fateful visit, when he had com- 
posed his hymn to virginity; in particular he was pleased by the several 
enjambed lines and the sentences ending in the middle of a couplet or 
even in the middle of a line, which features he thought lent a commendable 
tightness of structure to the entire poem, and by the lengthy periods them- 
selves, whose syntactical arrangement precluded the sort of line-at-a-time 
composition characteristic of amateurs. He was impatient to have done 
with disguises and assume his true position in the Province; his physical 
condition was better than it had been before the accident, and his spirits 
could scarcely have been improved upon. After considering the merits of 
several plans, he resolved at length to end the fraud by announcing his 
identity and reciting these latest verses as soon as the Poseidon made a land- 
fall: clearly there was no plot against the Laureate aboard ship, and the 
passengers deserved to know the truth about him and Bertrand 

It was not his fortune, however, to carry out this pleasant scheme. With 
their journey's end so near at hand, passengers and crew alike grew daily 
more festive, and though the sailors were officially forbidden to drink aboard 
ship, the fo'c'sle no less than the main cabin became the scene of nightly 
revels. The crew's hospitality to Ebenezer waxed proportionately: he had 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2 49 1 

no money to invest in their card-games, but he readily shared their rum 
and cordiality. 

One evening when all had drunk a fair amount of liquor, old Ned, whose 
amiable deportment had most surprised the Laureate, descended the com- 
panionway and announced to the company at large that he had just re- 
turned from an interview with Mister Ebenezer Cooke on the main deck. 
Ebenezer's ears pricked up and his cheeks burned, for the man's tone im- 
plied that he had been sent as some kind of spokesman for the group. The 
rest avoided looking at him. 

"I told 'Squire Cooke how fairly we'd looked to's man," Ned continued, 
smiling unpleasantly at the poet. "I told him we'd fetched him from death's 
door and nursed him back to health again, and shared our bed and board 
without complaint. Then I asked him if't wouldn't please him to give 
us somewhat for our pains, seeing we're coming on to landfall " 

"What did he say?" a man asked. Ebenezer's features boiled about: he 
was disappointed to learn that their generosity had been at least partly 
venal, but at the same time he recognized his obligation to them and the 
legitimacy of their claim. 

Ned leered at him. 'The lying wretch pled povertyl Says he lost his last 
farthing when we sighted Corvoi" 

" Tis all too true," Ebenezer declared, in the face of a general protest 
at Ned's announcement. "He is a profligate fellow and, not content to 
squander his own money hath wagered mine as well, which is why I could 
not join your games. But I swear you shall be paid for your kindness, since 
you set a price on't. Do but copy down your names for me, and I'll dis- 
patch the sum the day I arrive at Maiden." 

'Til wager ye will, and lose my money tool" Chips laughed. "A vow 
like that is lightly sworn!" 

"Prithee let me explain " Ebenezer made up his mind to reveal his 

identity then and there. 

"No explanation needed," said the boatswain, who in most matters spoke 
for the crewmen on that watch. "When sailors nurse an ailing sailor they 
want no thanks, but when they share the fo'c'sle with an ailing passenger, 
they're paid at the voyage's end." 

" 'Tis the code o' the sea," Ned affirmed. 

"And a fair one," Ebenezer granted. "If you'll but " 

"Stay," the boatswain commanded with a smile, and brought forth a 
sheet of paper from his pocket. "Your master pleads poverty, and you as 
well. There's naught for't but ye must sign this paper." 



[ 250 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Ebenezer took the document doubtfully and read the rudely penned 
words. 

"What thing is this?" he cried, and looked up to find all the sailors grin- 
ning at his wonder. 

" Tis the code o' the sea, as Ned says/' the boatswain answered. "Sign 
ye that paper and thou'rt a poor jack like the rest of us, that owes his 
fellows not a fart." 

Indeed, the document proclaimed that its signer was a kind of honorary 
member of the Poseidon's crew and shared the rights, privileges, and obli- 
gations of a common seaman, work and pay excepted. Its language, polished 
by comparison with the penmanship, suggested that the gesture was in 
fact a traditional means of coping with what Ebenezer had assumed to 
be a novel predicament, and Captain Meech's signature in one corner be- 
spoke official sanction. 

"Then you want no payment after all?" 

The boatswain shook his head. " 'Twould be against the code to think 
oft from a shipmate/' 

"Why, 'tis an honor!" the poet laughed, his esteem for the men re- 
doubled. "I'll sign my name right gladly!" And fetching out his quill he 
fixed his proper name and title to the paper. 

"Ah, mate," said Chips, who watched behind his shoulder, "what prank 
is this ye play us for our kindness? Sign thy own name, not thy master's!" 

"Is't you* ve heard before about the code?" Ned asked suspiciously. 

"Nay, gentlemen, I mean no prank. 'Tis time you knew the truth." He 
proceeded then to tell the whole story of his disguise, explaining as briefly 
as he could what made it necessary. The liquor oiled his tongue: he spoke 
eloquently and at length, and by way of credentials even recited from 
memory every couplet in his notebook. "Do but say the word," he con- 
cluded. "I'll fetch my valet hence to swear to't. He could not quote a verse 
from memory and scarce could read 'em off the page." 

At first openly incredulous, the men were clearly impressed by the time 
the poet was finished. No one suggested summoning Bertrand to testify. 
Their chief reservation, it turned out, was the fact that Ebenezer had 
been content with a fo'c'sle hammock while his servant enjoyed the favors 
of Miss Lucy Robotham, and the Laureate turned this quickly to account 
by reminding them of his hymn to virginity: such behavior as Bertrand's 
was unthinkable in .a man to whom virginity was of the essence. 

" 'Sbody!" the boatswain cried. "Ye mean to say a poet is like a popish 
priest, that uses his cod for naught but a bilge-pump?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2J1 ] 

"I speak for no poet save myself/ 7 Ebenezer replied, and went on to 
explain, insofar as modesty permitted, the distinction between ecclesiastical 
celibacy and true virginity. The former, he declared, was no more than a 
discipline, albeit a highly commendable one in that it turned to nobler 
work the time and energy commonly spent on love-making, spared the 
votary from dissipating entanglements with mistresses and wives, and was 
conducive in general to a longer and more productive life; but it was by 
no means so pure a state as actual virginity, and in point of fact implied 
no necessary virtue at allthe greatest lecher is celibate in later years, when 
his powers have fled. Celibacy, in short, was a negative practice almost 
always adopted either by default or by external authority; virginity, on the 
other hand, was a positive metaphysical state, the more to be admired since 
it was self-imposed and had in itself neither instrumental value nor, in the 
male, physical manifestation of its possession or loss. For him it had not 
even the posthumous instrumentality of a Christian virtue, since his in- 
terest in it was ontological and aesthetic rather than moral. He expatiated 
freely, more for his own edification than that of the crew, who regarded 
him with awe. 

"Ye mean to sit there and tell us/' the boatswain asked soberly in the 
middle of a sentence, "ye never caulked a fantail in your life? Ye never 
turned the old fid to part some dock-whore's hemp?" 

"Nor shall I ever/' the poet said stoutly, and to forestall further prykig 
he returned the proclamation and proposed a drink to his new position. 
"Think not I count your honor less as Laureate," he assured them. "Let's 
have a dram on't, and ere the night's done I'll pay my toll with something 
more sweet than silver." Indeed, he meant to do them no less an honor 
than to sing their praises for ever and all in verse. 

The sailors looked at each other. 

"So be't!" old Ned cackled, and the others voiced approval too. "Get 
some rum in him, mates, 'fore the next watch!" 

Ebenezer was given the bottle and bade to drink it all himself. "What's 
this?" He laughed uncertainly. "A sort of initiation ceremony?" 

"Nay, that comes after," said Chips. "The rum's to make ye ready." 

Ebenezer declined the preliminaries with a show of readiness for any 
mock ordeal. "Let's put by the parsley and have at the meat, then; you'll 
find me game for'tl" 

This was the signal for a general uproar: the poet's arms were pinioned 
from both sides; his chair was snatched from under him by one sailor, 
and before he could recover from his surprise another pressed his face into 



[ 252 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

a pillow that lay in the center of the table, having magically appeared from 
nowhere. Not given by temperament to horseplay, Ebenezer squirmed with 
embarrassment; furthermore, both by reason of his office and from sim- 
ple fear of pain he did not relish the idea of ritual bastinados on his back- 
side, the administering of which he assumed to be the sailors' object. 

When to his horror it grew clear, a moment later, that birching was not 
their intent at all, no force on earth could keep him silent; though his 
head was held as fast as were his limbs, he gave a shriek that even the 
main-top lookout heard. 

"Captain Meech will hang you for this!" he cried, when he could muster 
words. 

"Ye think he knows naught o' the code o' the sea?" Ebenezer recognized 
old Ned's evil cackle behind him. "Ye saw his name on the paper, did ye 
not?" 

And as if to confirm the hopelessness of his position, no sooner had he 
recommenced his shrieks than the mate on deck thrust his head down the 
companionway to issue a cheerful ultimatum: "The Captain says belay the 
hollowing or lay the wretch out with a pistol-butt. He's bothering the ladies." 

His only threat thus spiked, Ebenezer seemed condemned to suffer the 
initiation in its ruinous entirety. But a sudden cry went up on deck Eb- 
enezer, half a-swoon, paid no attention to it and in an instant every man 
ran for the companionway, leaving the novice to his own resorts. Weak with 
outrage, he sent a curse after them. Then he made shift to dress himself and 
tried as best he could to calm his nerves with thoughts of retribution. Still 
oblivious to the sound of shouts and running feet above his head, he pres- 
ently gave voice to a final sea-couplet, the last verse he was to spawn for 
weeks to come: 

"Hell hath no fouler, filthier Demon: 
Preserve me, LORD, from English Seamen!" 

Now to the general uproar on deck was added the sound of musket fire 
and even the great report of a cannon, though the Poseidon carried no 
artillery: whatever was happening could no longer be ignored. Ebenezer 
went to the companionway, but before he could climb up he was 
met by Bertrand, in nightgown and cap, who leaped below in a single 
bound and fell sprawling on the floor. 

"Master Ebenezer!" he cried and, spying the poet by the ladderway, 
rose trembling to his knees. At sight of the man's terror Ebenezer's flesh 
tingled. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 253 ] 

"What is't, man? What ails you?" 

"We're all dead men, sir!" Bertrand wailed. " Tis all up with us! Pirates, 
sir! Ah, curse the hour I played at Laureate! The devils are boarding us 
this moment!" 

"Nay! Thou'rt drunk!" 

"I swear't, sir! Tis the plank for all of us!" In the late afternoon, he 
explained, the Poseidon had raised another sail to the southeast, which, 
taking it for some member of the fleet, Captain Meech made haste to 
overhaul before dark the man-o'-war that was to see them safely through 
pirate waters had been out of sight since Corvo, and two ships together 
were more formidable prey than one alone. But it had taken until just 
awhile ago to overtake the stranger, and no sooner were they in range 
than a shot was fired across their bow, and they realized too late that they 
were trapped. "Would Heav'n I'd stayed to face Ralph Birdsall!" he la- 
mented in conclusion. "Better my cod lost than my whole life! What shall 
we do?" 

The Laureate had no better answer for this than did his valet, who still 
crouched trembling on his knees unable to stand. The shooting had 
stopped, but there was even more shouting than before, and Ebenezer 
felt the shock of another hull brushing the Poseidon's. He climbed a little 
way up the ladder just enough to peer out 

He saw a chilling sight. The other vessel rode along the Poseidon's star- 
board beam, made fast to her victim with numerous grappling hooks. It 
was a shallop, schooner-rigged and smaller than the Poseidon, but owing 
to its proximity and the long weeks during which nothing had been to 
be seen but open sea on every hand, it looked enormous. Men with pistols 
or torches in one hand and cutlasses in the other, presumably pirates, were 
scrambling over the railings unopposed, the firelight rendering them all 
the more fearsome, and were herding the Poseidon's crew around the main- 
mast; it appeared that Captain Meech had deemed it unwise to resist. The 
Captain himself, together with his fellow officers, could be seen under 
separate guard farther aft, by the mizzen, and already the passengers were 
being rousted out from their berths onto the deck, most in nightclothes 
or underwear. The men cursed and complained; the women swooned, 
shrieked, or merely wept in anticipation of their fate. Over the pirates' fore- 
mast hung the gibbous moon, its light reflecting whitely from the fluttering 
gaff-topsails; the lower sails, also luffing in the cool night breeze, glowed 
orange in the torchlight and danced with giant, flickering shadows. Eben- 
ezer leaned full against the ladder to keep from falling. To his mind 



[ 254 1 THE SOT-W 1 FACTOR 

rushed all the horrors he'd read about in Esquemeling: how Roche 
Brasiliano had used to roast his prisoners on wooden spits, or rub their 
stripes with lemon juice and pepper; how L'Ollonais had pulled out his 
victims' tongues with his bare hands and chewed their hearts; how Henry 
Morgan would squeeze a man's eyeballs out with a tourniquet about the 
skull, depend him by the thumbs and great toes, or haul him aloft by the 
privy members. 

From behind and below came the sound of Bertrand's lamentations, 

"Now belay it, belay it!" one of the pirates was commanding, perhaps 
an officer. It was not the passengers' miserable carcasses they had designs 
on, he declared, but money and stores. If everyone behaved himself prop- 
erly,, no harm would befall them save the loss of their valuables, a few 
barrels of pork and peas, and three or four seamen, whom the pirates 
needed to complement their crew; in an hour they could resume their voy- 
age. He then dispatched a contingent of pirates to accompany the male 
passengers back to their quarters and gather the loot, the women remaining 
above as hostages to assure a clean picking; another detail he ordered to 
pillage the hold; and a third, consisting of three armed men, came forward 
to search the fo'c'sle for additional seamen. 

"Quickly!" Ebenezer cried to Bertrand, jumping to the floor. "Put these 
clothes on and give me my nightgown!" He commenced pulling the valet's 
clothes off himself as hastily as possible. 

"Why?" Bertrand wailed. " Tis all over with us either way." 

Ebenezer had his clothes off already and began to yank at the night- 
gown. "We know not what's in store for us," he said grimly. "Belike 'tis 
the gentlemen they're after, not the poor folk. At any rate 'twere better 
to see't through honestly: if I'm to die I'll die as Eben Cooke, not Bertrand 
Burton! Off with this, now!" He gave a final tug, and the gown came off 
over Bertrand's head and arms. "I'Christ, 'tis all beshit!" 

"For very fear," the valet admitted, and scrabbled after some clothes. 

"Avast there, laddies!" came a voice from the companionway. "Lookee 
here, mates, 'tis a floating Gomorry!" 

Ebenezer, the foul nightdress half over his head, and Bertrand, still 
naked on all fours, turned to face three grinning pirates, pistols and swords 
in hand, on the ladder. 

"I do despise to spoil your party, sailors," said the leader. He was a fero- 
cious-looking Moor, bull-necked, broken-nosed, rough-bearded, and dark- 
skinned; a red turbanlike cap sat on his head, and black hair bristled from 
his open shirt. "But we want your arses on deck." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 255 ] 

"Prithee don't mistake me, sir/' Ebenezer answered, pulling the skirts 
of his nightdress down. He drew himself up as calmly as he could and 
pointed with disdain to Bertrand. "This fellow here may speak for him- 
self, but I am no sailor: my name is Ebenezer Cooke, and I am Poet 
Laureate of His Majesty's Province of Maryland!" 



14: THE LAUREATE IS EXPOSED TO TWO 
ASSASSINATIONS OF CHARACTER, A PIRACY, A NEAR- 
DEFLOWERING, A NEAR-MUTINY, A MURDER, AND AN 
APPALLING COLLOQUY BETWEEN CAPTAINS OF THE 
SEA, ALL WITHIN THE SPACE OF A FEW PAGES 



UNIMPRESSED BY EBENEZER^S DECLARATION, THE HORRENDOUS MOOR AND 

his two confederates hustled their prisoners up to the main deck, the Lau- 
reate clad only in his unpleasant nightshirt and Bertrand in a pair of 
breeches hastily donned. The uproar had by this time subsided to some ex- 
tent; though the women and servants wepf and wailed on every hand, the 
officers and crew stood sullenly in groups around the mizzen and foremasts, 
respectively, and the gentlemen, who were returning one by one from the 
main cabin under the guard of their plunderers, preserved a tight-lipped 
silence. Thus far no physical harm had been offered either woman or man, 
and the efficient looting of the Poseidon was nearly complete: all that re- 
mained of the pirates' stated objectives, as overheard by Ebenezer, was ta 
finish the transfer of provisions and impress three or four seamen into their 
service. 

For robbery Ebenezer cared little, his valet having picked him clean 
already; it was the prospect of being impressed that terrified him, since he 
and Bertrand had been captured in the fo'c'sle and neither was wearing 
the clothes of a gentleman. His fears redoubled when their captors led 
them toward the foremast. 

"Nay, prithee, hear me!" he cried. "I am no seaman at all! My name 
is Ebenezer Cooke, of Cooke's Point in Maryland! I'm the Laureate 
Poet!" 

The Poseidon s crew, despite the seriousness of their position, grinned 
and elbowed one another at his approach. 

"Thou'rt a laureate liar, Jack," growled one of the pirates, and flung 



[256] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

him into the group. But the scene attracted notice, and a pirate officer, 
who by age and appearance seemed to be the Captain, approached from 
the waist. 

"What is't, Boabdil?" The officer's voice was mild, and his dress, in con- 
trast to the outlandishness of his men's, was modest, even gentlemanly; 
on shore one would have taken him for an honest planter or shipowner 
in his fifties, yet the great Moor was clearly alarmed by his approach, and 
glowered at Ebenezer for having precipitated it, 

"Naught in the world, Captain. We found these puppies buggered in 
the fo'c'sle, and the long one there claims he's no sailor." 

"Ask my man here!" Ebenezer pleaded, falling on his knees before the 
Captain. "Ask those wretches yonder if I'm one of them! I swear to you 
sir, I am a gentleman, the Laureate of Maryland by order of Lord Balti- 
more!" 

In response to the Captain's question Bertrand attested his master's iden- 
tity and declared his own, and the boatswain volunteered additional con- 
firmation; but old Ned, though no one had asked his opinion, spitefully 
swore the opposite, and by way of evidence produced, to the poet's horror, 
the document signed in the fo'c'sle, which proclaimed Ebenezer a member 
of the crew. 

" 'Twere better for all if ye signed them two aboard," he added. "They're 
able enough seamen, but thieves and rogues to ship with! Don't let 'em 
fool ye with their carrying-on!" 

Seeing their old shipmate's purpose, some of the other men took up the 
cry, hoping thereby to save themselves from being forced to join the pi- 
rates. But the Captain, after examining Ned's document, flung it over 
the side. 

"I know those things," he scoffed. "Besides, 'twas signed by the Laureate 
of Maryland." He appraised Ebenezer skeptically. "So thou'rt the famous 
Eben Cooke?" 

"I swear't, sir!" Ebenezer's heart pounded; he tingled with admiration 
for the Captain's astuteness and with wonder that his own fame was al- 
ready so widespread. But his troubles were not over, for although the pirate 
seemed virtually persuaded, he ordered both men brought aft for identi- 
fication by the passengers, whereupon he was perplexed to hear a third ver- 
sionneither of the men was a sailor, but it was the older, stouter one who 
was Laureate, and the skinny wretch his amanuensis. Captain Meech 
agreed, and added that this was not the servant's first presumption to his 
master's office. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2 57 ] 

"Ah," the pirate captain said to Bertrand, "thou'rt hiding behind thy 
servant's skirts, then! Yet how is't the crew maintain the contrary?" 

By this time the looting of the Poseidon was complete, and everyone's 
attention turned to the interrogation. Ebenezer despaired of explaining 
the complicated story of his disguise. 

"What matters it to you which is the liar?" Captain Meech inquired 
from the quarter-deck, where he was being held at pistol-point. "Take 
their money and begone with ye!" 

To which the pirate answered, undisturbed, "'Tis not the Laureate's 
money I want he hath little enough of that, I'll wager." Ebenezer and 
Bertrand both vouched for the truth of this conjecture. " 'Tis a good valet 
I'm after, to attend me aboard ship; the Laureate can go to the Devil." 
"Ye have found me Out," Bertrand said at once. "I'll own I am the 
Laureate Eben Cooke." 

"Wretch!" cried Ebenezer. "Confess thou'rt a lying scoundrel of a serv- 
ant!" 

"Nay, I'll tell the truth," the pirate said, watching both men carefully. 
" Tis the servant can go hang for all o' me; I've orders to hold the Laureate 
on my ship." 

"There is your poet, sir." Bertrand pointed shamelessly to Ebenezer. "A 
finer master no man ever served." 

Ebenezer goggled. "Nay, nay, good masters!" he said at last. " 'Tis not 
the first time I've presumed, as Captain Meech declared! This man here 
is the Laureate, in truth!" 

"Enough," the pirate commanded, and turned to the turbaned Moor. 
"Clap 'em both in irons, and let's be off." 

Thus amid murmurs from the people on the Poseidon the luckless pair 
were transferred to the shallop, protesting mightily all the way, and having 
confiscated every firearm and round of ammunition they could find aboard 
their prey, the pirates gave the ladies a final pinch, clambered over the 
rail, cast off the grapples, and headed for the open sea, soon putting 
their outraged victims far behind. The kidnaped seamen Chips, the boat- 
swain, and a youngster from the starboard watch were taken to the cap- 
tain's quarters to sign papers, and the two prisoners . confined forward in 
the rope- and sail-locker, which by addition of a barred door and leg irons 
made fast to the massive oak knees had been turned into a lightless brig. 
Sick with wrath at his valet's treachery though he was, and with appre- 
hension for his fate, Ebenezer was also bewildered by the whole affair and 
demanded to know the reason for their abduction; but to all such queries 



[ 2 rg ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

their jailer that same black giant who had first laid hands on them sim- 
ply responded, "Captain Pound hath his reasons, mate," and would say 
no more. It was not until the leg irons were fastened and the brute, in the 
process of bolting the heavy door, repeated this answer for the fourth or 
fifth time, that Ebenezer recognized the name. 

"Captain Pound, did you say? Your captain's name is Pound?" 

'Tom Pound it is," the pirate growled, and stayed for no further ques- 
tions. 

"Dear Heav'n!" the poet exclaimed. He and Bertrand were alone in 
the tiny cell now, and in absolute darkness, the Moor having taken the 
lamp with him. 

"D'ye know the blackguard, sir? Is he a famous pirate? Ah Christ, that 
I were back in Pudding Lane! I'd hold the wretched thing myself, and let 
Ralph Birdsall do his worst!" 

"Aye, I know of Thomas Pound." Ebenezer's astonishment at the coin- 
cidenceif indeed it was one temporarily gained the better of his wrath. 
"He's the very pirate Burlingame once sailed with, off New England!" 

"Master Burlingame a pirate!" Bertrand exclaimed. "At that, 'tis no sur- 
prise to me " 

"Hold thy lying tongue!" snapped Ebenezer. "Thou'rt a pretty knave 
to criticize my friend, that would throw me to the sharks yourself for tup- 
pence!" 

"Nay, prithee, sir," the servant begged, "think not so hard of me. I'll 
own I played ye false, but 'twas thy life or mine, no paltry tuppence." 
What's more, he added, Ebenezer had done the same a moment later, 
when the Captain revealed his true intention. 

To this truth the Laureate had no rejoinder, and so for a time both men 
were silent, each brooding on his separate misery. For beds they had two 
piles of ragged sailcloth on the floor timbers, which, since their cell was 
in the extreme bow of the shallop, were not horizontal but curved upwards 
from keel and cutwater, so that they also formed the walls. The angle, 
together with the pounding of waves against the bow, would have made 
sleep impossible for Ebenezer, despite his great fatigue, even without the 
additional discomforts of fear and excitement. His mind returned to Henry 
Burlingame, who in search of information about his parentage had sailed 
under the very brigand who now held them prisoner; perhaps aboard this 
very ship. 

"Would he were here now, to intercede for me!" 

He considered revealing his friendship with Burlingame to Captain 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR I 2 59 ] 

Pound, but rejected the idea. He had no idea what name Henry had sailed 
under, for one thing, and his friend's manner of parting company with 
his shipmates would scarcely raise the value, in the Captain's eyes, of an 
acquaintanceship with him. Ebenezer recalled the story, told him in the 
Plymouth coach, of Burlingame's adventure with the mother and daughter 
whom he'd saved from rape, and who had rewarded him with, among 
other things, the first real clue to his ancestry. How sorely did he miss 
Henry Burlingame! He could not even remember with any precision 
what his dear friend looked like; at best his mental picture was a composite 
of the very different faces and voices of Burlingame before and after the 
adventures in America. Bertrand's remark came to his mind again, and 
brought with it disturbing memories of the valet's encounters with Henry: 
their meeting in the London posthouse, never mentioned by his friend, 
and their exchange of clothing in the stable of the King o' the Seas. Why 
had Bertrand not been surprised to learn of Burlingame's piracy, which 
had so astonished Ebenezer? 

"Why did you speak so ill of Burlingame?" he asked aloud,, but in re- 
ply heard only the sound of snoring from the other side of the great keel 
timber between them. 

"In such straits as ours the wretch can sleep! 7 ' he exclaimed with a mix- 
ture of wonder and exasperation, but had not the heart to wake him. And 
eventually, though he had thought the thing impossible, he too succumbed 
to sheer exhaustion and, in that unlikeliest of places, slept. 

By morning the question had either gone from his mind or lost its 
importance, for he said nothing of it to his servant. It appeared as the day 
went on that their treatment at the hands of Captain Pound was not to 
be altogether merciless: after a breakfast of bread, cheese, and water not 
punishment, but the whole crew's morning fare they were released from 
their leg irons, given some purloined clothing, and allowed to come on 
deck, where they found themselves riding an empty expanse of ocean. The 
Moor, who seemed to be first mate, set them to various simple chores 
like oakum-picking and holystoning; only at night were they returned to 
their miserable cell, and never after the first time were they subjected to 
the leg irons. Captain Pound put his case plainly to them: he was per- 
suaded that one or the other was the Laureate but put no faith in the 
assertions of either, and meant therefore to hold both in custody. He would 
say no more regarding the reason for their incarceration than that he was 
following orders, nor of its probable term than that when so ordered he 



[260] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

would release them. In the meantime they had only to look to their be- 
havior, and no injury would be done them. 

From all this Ebenezer could not but infer that his captor was in some 
manner an agent of the archconspirator John Coode, at whose direction 
he had lain in ambush for the Poseidon. The man would stop at nothing 
to reach his mischievous ends! And how devilish clever, to let the pirates 
take the blame! The prospects of death or torture no longer imminent, the 
Laureate allowed himself boundless indignation at being kidnaped which 
mighty sentiment, however, he was sufficiently prudent to conceal from the 
kidnapersand at the same time could not but commend his foe's respect 
for the power of the pen. 

"Tis perfectly clear," he explained to Bertrand in a worldly tone. 
"Milord Baltimore had more than the muse in mind when he commissioned 
the Marylandiad. He knows what too few princes will admit: that a good 
poet's worth two friends at court to make or break a cause, though of course 
the man's too sensible of a poet's feelings to declare such a thing outright. 
Why else did he send dear Henry to watch after me, d'you think? And 
why should Coode waylay me, but that he knows my influence as well as 
Baltimore? Ffaith, two formidable antagonists!" 

If Bertrand was impressed, he was not a whit consoled. "God pox the 
twain of 'em!" 

"Say not so/' his master protested. " Tis all very well to keep an open 
mind on trifles, but this is a plain case of justice against poltroonery, and 
the man that shrugs compounds the felony." 

"Haply so," Bertrand said with a shrug. "I know your Baltimore's a won- 
drous Papist, but I doubt me he's a saint yet, for all that." When Ebenezer 
objected, the valet went on to repeat a story he'd heard from Lucy 
Robotham aboard the Poseidon, the substance of which was that Charles 
Calvert was in the employ of Rome. "He hath struck a dev'lish bargain 
with the Pope to join the Papists and the salvages against the Protestants 
and butcher every soul of 'em! Then when he hath made a Romish fortress 
out of Maryland, the Jesuits will swarm like maggots o'er the landscape, 
and ere ye can say 'Our Father' the entire country belongs to Rome!" 

"Pernicious drivel!" Ebenezer scoffed. "What cause hath Baltimore to 
do such evil?" 

"What cause! The Pope is sworn to beatify him if he Romanizes Mary- 
land, and canonize him if he snatches the whole country! He'll make a 
bloody saint of him!" It was to prevent exactly this castastrophe, Lucy 
Robotham had declared, that her father and the rest had joined with Coode 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 261 ] 

to overthrow the Papists in Maryland, coincidentally with the deposition 
of King James, and to petition William and Mary to assume the government 
of the Province. 'Tet old Coode was ill paid for's labors," Bertrand said, 
"for no sooner was the house pulled down than the wreckers fell out 
amongst themselves, and Baltimore contrived to get this fellow Nicholson 
the post of Governor. He flies King William's colors, but all the world 
knows he's a Papist at heart: when he fought with James at Hounslow 
Heath, he said his mass with the rest, and 'twas an Irish Papist troop he 
took to Boston." 

"Dear Father!" Ebenezer cried. "What a sink of calumny this Robotham 
strumpet was! Nicholson's as honest a man as I!" 

"He is the Duke of Bolton's bastard," the valet went on stubbornly. "And 
ere he took up with the Papists he was aide-de-camp to Colonel Kirke in 
Africa. They do declare he had a draught of wine from the Colonel's arse 
at Mequinez, to please the Emperor Muley Ishmael " 

"Stop!" 

"Some say 'twas May-wine and others Bristol sherry; Mistress Lucy her- 
self held with the May-winers." 

"I'll hear no more!" the poet threatened, but to his every protest 
Bertrand made the same replies. "There's a lot goes on that your honest 
wight dreams naught of," or "More history's made in the bedchamber than 
in the throne room." 

" 'Tis not a fart to me who's right or wrong," he said at last. "This Coode 
hath ginned us either way, and we'll ne'er set foot on land." 

"How is that?" the poet demanded. "I've fared no worse here than 
aboard the Poseidon, and we're only to be held till farther notice." 

"No doubt!" the servant said. "But if thou'rt such a cannon as Charles 
Calvert thinks, is't likely Coode. will turn ye loose to blast him? 'Tis a 
mystery to me we're still alive!" 

Ebenezer could not but acknowledge the logic of this position, yet 
neither could he be immediately terrified by it. Captain Pound was 
unquestionably formidable, but he was not cruel: although in the incident 
related by Burlingame he had apparently condoned rape,, he seemed to 
draw the line at murder, and his plundering of the Poseidon had been 
almost gentlemanly. Moreover he was not even avaricious, as pirates go: for 
weeks on end the shallop cruised with apparent aimkssness from north to 
south and back again, flying English colors; when a sail appeared on the 
horizon the pirates gave chase, but upon overhauling the other ship they 
would salute it amiably, and Captain Pound would inquire, as might the 



L202J THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

captain of any vessel met at sea, what port the stranger was bound for, and 
with what cargo. And though the replies were sometimes provocative 
"Bark Adelaide, a hundred and thirty days out of Falmouth, for Philadelphia 
with silk and silverware," or "Brig Pilgrim out of Jamaica with rum for 
Boston" only twice during the three full months of his imprisonment did 
Ebenezer witness acts of piracy, and these occurred consecutively on the 
same early August day, in the following manner: 

For several days the shallop had ridden hove to, though the weather was 
fine and nothing could be seen on any quarter. Just after the midday meal 
on the day referred to the lookout spied a sail to westward, and after ob- 
serving it for some time through his glass, Captain Pound said, " "Tis the 
Poseidon, all right. Take 'em below." The three kidnaped sailors were 
ordered to their quarters in the fo'c'sle, Bertrand was confined to the sail- 
locker, and Ebenezer, who had labored all morning at the apparently point- 
less job of shifting cargo in the hold, was sent below to complete the task. 

"Poor Captain Meech!" he thought. "This devil hath lain in wait to ruin 
him!" Though he deplored the idea of piracy in general and wished neither 
Meech nor his passengers harm, he could not feel pity for the sailors who 
had done him such an outrage; having witnessed already the ferocity of 
the pirates, he rather relished the idea of a fight between them and the 
Poseidon's crew. In any case he had no intention of missing the excitement 
on deck: during the chase, which lasted no more than an hour, he toiled 
dutifully in the hold, moving barrels and boxes aft in order (he understood 
now) to make room for additional loot; but when the grapples were 
thrown and all but a handful of the pirates crouched at the lee rail ready 
to board, he climbed to the edge of the after hatch and peered over. 

His heart leaped at sight of the familiar vessel: there was the quarter-deck 
whereon he'd debated with Bertrand the right demeanor for a poet and 
from which he'd been cast providentially into the sea; there on the poop 
stood Captain Meech, grim-faced, exhorting his men as before not to 
jeopardize the passengers' safety by resisting the assault, even though he 
had mounted a brand new eight-pounder in the bow. 

Ebenezer clucked his tongue. "Poor wretch!" 

There in the waist the ladies squealed and swooned as before, while the 
gentlemen, frowning nervously, were led off to their cabins for robbing; 
there by the foremast the sailors huddled. Ebenezer saw several of his 
molesters, including Ned, and many new faces as well. The pirates, having 
been at sea for at least the six weeks since their last encounter, took no pains 
to disguise their lust for the ladies and the female servants: they addressed 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 263 ] 

them in the lewdest terms; pinched, poked, tweaked, and stroked. Captain 
Pound had his hands full preventing wholesale assault. He cursed the crew 
in his quiet hissing voice and threatened them with keelhauling if they 
did not desist. Even so, the mate himself,, black Boabdil, driven nearly 
berserk by the sight of an adolescent beauty who, perhaps seasick, had been 
brought up on deck in her nightdress, flung her over his shoulder and made 
for the railing, clearly intending to have at her in traditional pirate fashion; 
it took the Captain's pistol at his temple to restrain the Moor's ardor and 
send him off growling and licking his lips. The girl, happily, had fainted at 
his first approach, and so was oblivious to her honor's narrow rescue. 

So desperate did the situation become that at length the Captain ordered 
all hands back aboard the shallop, though the pillaging was not entirely 
finished, and cast off the grapples. He carried with him Captain Meech, 
two members of the Poseidon's crew, and one of her longboats, giving as 
his reasons the need for a consultation on the subject of longitude and the 
possibility that not all of the eight-pounder's ammunition had been con- 
fiscated; he would set them free, he declared, as soon as the shallop was 
out of range. Then he set the still grumbling crew to stowing the fresh 
provisions in preparation for the formal dividing of the spoils, and re- 
treated with his hostage to the chartroom. 

Now Ebenezer had of course abandoned his observation post when the 
pirates came back aboard, and so dangerous was their mood that before 
the first barrel of port came down the hatch he hid himself far aft, be- 
hind the old cargo, to avoid their wrath. His hiding place was a wide black 
cranny, perhaps three feet high, that extended on both sides of the keel 
under the cabins, as far aft as the rudderpost in the stern. Since the space 
provided access to the steering-cables running from the wheel on deck 
through blocks to the rudderpost itself, it was provided with a false floor over 
the bilge, on which the Laureate lay supine and still. Over his head, which 
was not two feet from the stern, he heard the sound of chairs scraping on 
the floor, and presently a pair of chuckling voices. 

"By Heav'n, the black had like to split her open!" said one, and Ebene- 
zer easily identified Captain Pound. "I thought he'd pitch me to the fishes 
when I stopped him!" 

The other laughed. "He'd ha' spitted her through for all I'd cross him, 
Tom, I swear'tl Twere a pity, though, I'll grant ye; she's a gentleman's 
morsel, not a beef-bull's, and I mean to try her ere we raise Lands End." 

Ebenezer was not surprised to hear the voice of Captain Meech, but he 
was horrified at the intimacy suggested by their conversation. 



[ 264 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Do ye look for trouble?" Meech asked. 

"God knows, Jim. Boabdil is a wild one when he sets his cap for coney. 
They all need a week ashore, or I'm a dead man/' 

"Well, I've no orders for ye about your poet, but I did bring ye this 
they smuggled it aboard at Cedar Point." 

There was a pause while Meech brought forth whatever it was he re- 
ferred to, then a slap as of papers on the table. Ebenezer strained his ears, 
though every word thus far he had heard distinctly. He forgot completely 
about the original purpose of his concealment. 

"A Secret Historie of the Voiage Up the Bay of Chesapeake" Pound 
read aloud. "What foolery is this?" 

"No foolery," Meech laughed. "Old Baltimore would cut your throat 
for't! Look on the backsides." 

The papers rustled. "Tore God!" 

"Aye." Meech confirmed whatever realization his friend had reached. 
"They got it off Dick Smith in Calvert County God knows howl He's 
Baltimore's surveyor general." 

"But what am I to do with it?" 

"They said Coode himself will come fort in a month or so. This is only a 
part of the whole Journal, from what I gather; if he can find the rest ere 
things get settled, then Nicholson can't touch him. Right now the place is 
a bedlam, Tom: ye should see St. Mary's City! Andros came and went; 
Lawrence is back in; Henry Jowles hath Ninian Beale's old job; old 
Robotham's back in, that hath the daughter ye likedremember Lucy?" 

"Aye," said Pound, "from the last time. She hath a birthmark on her 
arse, you told me." 

"Nay, Tom, no birthmark! Tis the Great Bear in freckles, I sweaft, and 
the pointers point " 

"No more!" Pound laughed. "I remember where the polestar was, that 
all men's needles aimed at. Go on with Maryland, now, ere ye have to 
leave." 

"Marry, what a wench!" Meech said. "Where was I? Did I tell ye about 
Andros?" He went on to relate that John Coode's brother-in-law, Neamiah 
Blackistone, so influential under the late Governor Copley, had died in 
disgrace last February after the Commissioners of the Customs-house, on 
evidence from the "Burlingame's Journdl documents" smuggled to Lord 
Baltimore by Nicholson, had charged him with graft. Sir Edmund Andros 
of Virginia had returned to St. Mary's in May with Sir Thomas Lawrence, 
whom Copley had impeached, and made him President of the Council 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [265] 

and acting Governor of Maryland to the rebels' dismay, since it was 
Lawrence who had smuggled the notorious Assembly Journal of 1691 to 
Nicholson. Then Nicholson had landed, embraced his good friend Law- 
rence, and made a Maryland councillor out of Edward Randolph, the 
Jacobite Royal Surveyor so well known up and down the colonies for his 
prankish contempt of provincial authorities. But so far from thanking his 
old superior Andros for governing in his absence, Nicholson had promptly 
called that government illegal, declared null and void all statutes passed 
thereunder, and demanded (thus far in vain) that Andros return the five- 
hundred-pound honorarium awarded him for his services by Lawrence's 
Council! The insurrectionists,. Meech declared, were making the most of 
this rebuff to turn Andros against Nicholson; their leader Coode still held 
with impunity the post of sheriff in St. Mary's County and a lieutenant- 
colonelcy in the county militia under Lawrence himself, and in these capac- 
ities drew his salary from the very government he was doing his best to 
overthrow. Andros had already allowed Coode the services of his "coast- 
guard" Captain Pound, of course, and in addition had virtually promised 
Coode asylum in Virginia if, as was feared imminent, Nicholson opened 
cases against him, his ally Kenelm Cheseldyne of the Assembly, and old 
Blackistone's widow. Tlie insurrectionists, Meech said further, were en- 
gaged both defensively and offensively: they were ransacking the Province 
for the other portions of the incriminating Journal, which they understood 
to be cached with various Papists and Jacobites, and at the same time they 
were inciting the Piscataway Indians to rebel, perhaps in league with other 
Indian nations. 

"Many, 'tis a perilous game they play!" said Pound. "I'm happy to be 
at sea!" 

"I'm happy to be sailing east to London, Tom; this Coode would bum a 
province on a bet. Yet he doth pay handsomely." 

"Speaking whereof " 

"Aye," Meech said. There was another pause. "They gave me this to 
give ye for holding Cooke, and there's another like it for keeping these 
papers." Nicholson had learned of the Journal's absence, he explained, and 
was turning the Province upside down to find it hence the rebels' decision 
to remove it from the colony altogether until things settled down. Pound 
was to cruise in his present latitude for six weeks, or until a ship came out 
from Coodte to fetch the papers. At that time he would receive his fee and, 
in all likelihood, instructions concerning his prisoners. 



[ 266 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Good enough," said Captain Pound. "Now let me give ye your share 
from the last trip." 
"Did ye do well by't, Tom?" 

"Not bad," Pound allowed, and added that since the terms of their 
agreement gave all the cash to the pirates and all the jewels to Meech, who 
could easily sell them in London, it was to be expected that on westbound 
trips the pirates would fare as well or better, but on eastbound trips, when 
many of the passengers would have nothing left but the family jewels, 
Meech would get the lion's share. The transaction was completed; Meech 
made ready to depart in the longboat, and Ebenezer, who had heard the 
entire colloquy in horror and astonishment, prepared to evacuate his hiding- 
place, the pirates having long since finished loading the hold. 

"One more thing," Meech said, and the poet scrambled back to hear. 
"If Coode hath not found the rest of his Journal by the time he fetches 
this part, tell him I've a notion where to look for't, but 'twill cost him 
twenty pound if he finds it there. Did ye see what's writ on the back of 
all those pages?" 

"You mean this Voiage Up the Bay of Chesapeake? What is it?" 

Meech explained that Kenelm Cheseldyne had recorded the Journal of 
the 1691 Assembly on the reverse pages of a bound quarto manuscript 
provided him by Coode, which happened to be an old diary the rebel had 
acquired while hiding out in Jamestown. " 'Twas a wight named Smith 
wrote the diary damnedest thing ye ever read! and they all call it 'Smith's 
book' for safety's sake, the Papists as well as the rebels, though few of 'em 
e'er laid eyes on't." What would be more natural, then, he asked of Pound, 
than for Baltimore to distribute the portions for safekeeping to various 
confederates of the same surname? 

Ebenezer began to sweat. Pound, to his great relief, laughed at the 
conjecture as preposterous, but promised to relay it to Coode's agents for 
what it was worth. 

"Which is twenty pounds," Meech declared merrily. "Come, threaten me 
to my boat, now, or they'll see our game. I'll be back with the Smoker's 
Eket next spring or before." 

"I'll ride the Line for ye, Jim," Pound promised referring to the parallel 
of latitude extending from the Azores to the Virginia Capes, along which 
the fleets customarily sailed for ease of navigation. 

Ebenezer scrambled out of his cranny, over boxes and barrels, and up 
ths ladder to $ie hatch, nearly sick with indignation and excitement. He 
Was bursting to tell Bertrand all he'd heard; in the considerable uproar 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 267 ] 

that greeted the appearance of the two captains he was able to climb to 
the deck and move forward to the fo'c'sle companionway (which led also 
to his berth in the rope-locker) without attracting undue notice. 

The men were indeed in mutinous spirits, ready to make trouble at the 
slightest excuse. Grudgingly they released the two terrified sailors from the 
Poseidon, whom they had tormented throughout the captains' private con- 
versation; their faces darkened as Meech's longboat, under the barrels of 
their pistols, struck out for its mother ship on the north horizon. 

Ebenezer slipped through the foVsle to his cell which customarily re- 
mained unlocked and told Bertrand the story of Meech's treachery, 
Coode's latest intrigues, and the valuable document in the Captain's 
quarters. 

"I must lay hands on those papers!" he exclaimed. "How Coode came 
by them I can't imagine, but Baltimore shall have them backl I must steal 
into Pound's cabin and filch 'em ere Coode's ship comes." 

Bertrand shook his head. "Marry, sir, 'tis not thy fight. A poet hath no 
part in these things." 

"Not so," Ebenezer replied. "I vowed to fling myself into the arms of 
Life, and what is life but the taking of sides? Besides, Fve private reasons 
for wanting that Journal." How pleased would Burlingame be, he reflected 
happily, to learn that Captain John Smith had a secret diary! Who knew 
but what these very papers were the key poor Henry so long had sought to 
unlock the mystery of his parentage? 

"I see those reasons plain enough," the valet declared. "The book would 
fetch a pretty price if ye put it up for bids. But 'twill do ye small good to 
steal it when we've no more than a fortnight left on earth. Marry, did ye 
see what spirits the Moor is in? If this Coode doth not kill us, the pirates 
will." 

But the Laureate did not agree. "This faction may be our salvation, not 
our doom." He described the delicate atmosphere on deck. "Tis Pound 
that holds us prisoner, not the crew/' he said. "They've naught to gain by 
killing us if they mutiny, but they may well kill him. What's more, they 
know naught of the Journal. Belike they'll make us members of the crew, 
and once the turmoil hath subsided I'll find a way to steal the book. Then 
we can watch our chance to slip ashore. Or better, once we're pirates like 
the rest we can hide aboard some ship we're sent to plunder; they'd never 
miss us. Let 'em mutiny, I say; we'll join them!" 

As if the last were a command, an instant later a shout went up on deck, 
followed at once by a brace of pistol-shots. Ebenezer and Bertrand hurried 



[ 268 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

up to declare their allegiance to the mutineers, who they readily assumed 
had taken charge of the shallop, and indeed they found Boabdil at the helm, 
grinning at the men assembled in the waist. But instead of lying dead on the 
deck, Captain Pound stood beside him, arms crossed, a smoking pistol in 
each hand and a grim smile upon his face, and it was one of the crew, a 
one-eyed Carolina boy named Patch, who sprawled, face-down and bleeding, 
.on the poop companionway. 

"We'll put into port when I say so," Pound declared, and returned the 
pistols to his sash. Two men stepped forward to retrieve their wounded 
shipmate. 

"Over the side with him/' the Captain ordered, and despite the fact that 
he was not yet dead, the Carolinian was tumbled into the ocean. 

"The next man I shan't waste a ball on," Pound threatened, and did not 
even look back to see his victim flounder in the wake. 

"Why is the Moor so happy?" Bertrand whispered to Ebenezer. "Ye said 
he was the wrathfulest of all." 

The poet, stunned by his first sight of death, shook his head and 
swallowed furiously to keep from being ill. 

Just then the lookout cried "Sail, ho! Sail to eastward!" The pirates 
looked to see a three-master heading in their direction, but were too 
chastened to display any great interest. 

"There, now!" laughed Captain Pound, after examining the stranger 
through his glass. "If Patch had held his peace ten minutes more, he'd not 
be feeding sea-crabs! D'ye know what s'hip stands yonder, men?" 

They did not, nor did the prospect of robbing it fill them with enthusi- 
asm. 

" Tis the London ship I've l$id for these two weeks," Pound declared, 
"whilst you wretches were conspiring in the fo'c'sle! Did ye ne'er hear tell 
of a brigantine called the Cy/>rwn?" 

On hearing this name the crew cheered lustily, again and again. They 
slapped one another's backs, leaped and danced about the deck, and at the 
Captain's orders sprang as if possessed to ratlines, sheets, halyards, and 
braces. Topsails and forestaysail were broken out, the helm was put hard 
OVQT, and the shallop raced to meet her newest prey head-on. 

"What is this Cyprian^ that changed their minds so lightly?" Bertrand 
whispered. 

"I do not know," his master answered, sorry to see the mutiny come to 
naught. "But she hath sprung from the sea like her namesake, and haply 
we'll fyave cause to love her, Lpok sharp for your chance to slip aboard; I 
hope to steal the Journal if I can." 



15: THE RAPE OF THE CYPRIAN; ALSO, THE TALE OF 
HICKTOPEAKE, KING OF ACCOMACK, AND THE 
GREATEST PERIL THE LAUREATE HAS FALLEN 
INTO THUS FAR 



IN LESS THAN A QUARTER OF AN HOXJR THE SHALLOP AND THE BRIGANTINE, 

sailing smartly on opposite reaches, were within cannon-range of each other. 
Dozens of the brigantine's passengers were crowded forward to see the 
shallop, possibly the first vessel they'd met in weeks; they waved hands and 
kerchiefs in innocent salutation. The pirates, every idle hand of whom was 
similarly preoccupied, responded with a fearsome cry and fired a round into 
the water dead ahead of their quarry. It was not until then, when the others 
screamed and ran for cover, that Ebenezer began to guess in a general way 
what was afoot: every one of the passengers he could see was female. 

"Dear Heav'n!" he breathed. 

The captain of the brigantine realized the shallop's intention and came 
about to run north before the wind, at the same time firing on the attacker; 
but his defense came too late. Anticipating exactly such a maneuver, 
Captain Pound had his crew already stationed to follow suit, and the shallop 
was under way on the new course before the brigantine finished setting her 
sails. Moreover, although the several square-rigged sails of the brigantine 
were better for running before the wind than the fore-and-aft rig of her 
pursuer, the shallop's smaller size and lighter weight more than compen- 
sated for the difference. Captain Pound ordered his men not to return the 
musket- and pistol-fire; instead, taking the helm himself, he cut so close 
under the brigantine's stern that the name Cyprian, on a banner held by 
carved oak cupids, was plainly legible on her transom. At the very moment 
when the shallop's bowsprit seemed about to pierce the victim's stern, he 
veered a few degrees to starboard; the cannoneer in the bow fired a ball 
point-blank into the brigantine's rudder, and the chase was over. The 
Cyprian's crew scrambled to take in sail before the helpless vessel capsized. 
By the time the shallop came about and retraced her course the brigantine 
was rolling under bare poles in the swell; the crew stood with upraised arms, 
the first mate ran a white flag up the main halyards, and the captain, hands 
clasped behind him, waited on the poop deck for the worst. 



[ 2JO ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

The pirates were beside themselves. They thronged to the rail, shouting 
obscenities and making the lewdest gestures. It was all Boabdil could do 
to bring the shallop alongside, so preoccupied were they all with their joy: 
the Moor himself had stripped off all but his tall red headgear and stood 
like a black nightmare at the helm. At length the grapples were made 
fast, the sails struck, and the two ships lashed together along their beams, 
so that they rode like mated seabirds on the waves. Then with shrieks and 
howls the pirates swarmed over the rails, cursing and stumbling in their 
haste. The Cyprian's crew backed off in fright, but no one paid them the 
slightest attention: indeed, Captain Pound had finally to force three of his 
men at pistol-point to tie them to the masts. The rest had no thought for 
anything but breaking open the companionway and cabin doors, which the 
terrified passengers had bolted from inside. 

Their savagery made Ebenezer blanch. Beside him where he stood near 
the shallop's foremast was the oldest member of the pirate crew, Carl, the 
sailmaker a wizened, evil-appearing little man in his sixties with a short, 
dirty beard and no teeth at all chuckling and shaking his head at the .scene. 

"Is the ship full of women?" the Laureate asked him. 

The old man nodded mirthfully. "She's the whore-boat out o' London." 
Once or twice a year, he explained, the Cyprian's captain took on a load of 
impoverished young ladies who were willing to prostitute themselves for 
six months in the colonies, where the shortage of women was acute. The 
girls were transported without charge; the enterprising captain received not 
only their fares but in the case of girls with special qualifications such as 
virginity, respectability, or extreme youth or comeliness a handsome bonus 
as well from the brothel-masters who came to Philadelphia from all over 
the provinces for the purpose of replenishing or augmenting their staffs. As 
for the girls, some had already been prostitutes in London, others were 
women rendered desperate by poverty or other circumstances, and some 
simply hard-reasoning young serving girls bent on reaching America at any 
cost, who found six months of prostitution more attractive than the 
customary four-year indenture of the colonial servant 

"Every pirate on the coast keeps his eye out for the Cyprian this time o' 
year/' the sailmaker said. "There's better than a hundred wenches behind 
that door. Lookee there at Boabdil!" 

Ebenezer saw the naked Moor push aside his shipmates and raise a huge 
maul that he had found nearby, probably teft on deck by the brigantine's 
carpenter. With one blow he splintered the door and dived headlong in- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2JI ] 

side, the others close behind him. A moment later the air was split with 
screams, and curses. 

Ebenezer's knees trembled. "Poor wretches! Poor wretches!" 

"This!" scoffed Carl the sailmaker, and cackled at the poet's consterna- 
tion. " 'Tis but a bloody prayer meeting, this is! Ye should have sailed last 
year with old Tom Tew of Newport, as I did. One time we sailed from 
Libertatia to the coast of Araby, and in the Red Sea we overhauled one o' 
the Great Mogul's ships with pilgrims bound for Mecca; a hundred gun she 
carried, but we boarded her without losing a man, and what do ye think we 
found? Sixteen hundred virgins, sir! Not a maidenhead more nor less! 
Sixteen hundred virgins bound for Mecca, the nicest little Moors ye e'er 
laid eyes upon, and not above a hundred of us! Took us a day and a night 
to pop 'em all Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Portogeezers, Africans, and Eng- 
lishmen, we were and ere we had done, the deck Iooke4 like a butcher's 
block. There is not the like o' that day and night in the history of the 
lickerish world, I swear't! I cut a brace myself, for all I was coming on to 
sixty little brown twins they were, and tight as a timber-hitch, and I've 
ne'er got up the old fid since!" 

He rambled on, but Ebenezer could not bear to hear him out. For one 
thing, the scene on deck was too arresting for divided attention: the pirates 
dragged out their victims in ones and twos, a-swoon or awake, at pistol- 
point or by main strength. He saw girls assaulted on the decks, on the 
stairways, at the railings, everywhere, in every conceivable manner. None 
was spared, and the prettier prizes were clawed at by two and three at a 
time. Boabdil appeared with one over each shoulder, kicking and scratching 
him in vain: as he presented one to Captain Pound on the quarter-deck, 
the other wriggled free and tried to escape her monstrous fate by scrambling 
up the mizzen ratlines. The Moor allowed her a fair head start and then 
climbed slowly in pursuit, calling to her in voluptuous Arabic at every step. 
Fifty feet up, where any pitch of the hull is materially amplified by the 
height, the girl's nerve failed: she thrust bare arms and legs through the 
squares of the rigging and hung for dear life while Boabdil, once he had 
come up from behind, ravished her unmercifully. Down on the shallop the 
sailmaker clapped his hands and chortled; Ebenezer, heartsick, turned away. 

He saw Bertrand a little distance behind him, watching with undisguised 
avidity, and recalled his plan. The time was propitious: every member of 
the shallop's crew except old Carl was busy at his pleasure, and even 
Captain Pound, who normally stood aloof from all festivities, had found 



[ 272 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the Moor's trophy too tempting to refuse and had disappeared with her 
into the brigantine's cabin. 

"Look sharp!" he whispered to the valet. "I'm going for the Journal now, 
and then we'll try to slip aboard the Cyprian!' And ignoring Bertrand's 
frightened look, he made his way carefully aft to the doorway of Captain 
Pound's quarters. It required no searching to find what he sought: the 
Journal lay in plain view on the table, its loose pages held fast by a fungus- 
coral paperweight. Ebenezer snatched it up and scanned the first page 
with pounding heart: a transcription of the Assembly's convening, mean- 
ingless to him. But on the redo 

"Ah!" 

A Secret Historic of the Voiage Up the Bay of Chesapeake From 
Jamestowne in Virginia, he read, Undertaken in the Yeer of Our Lord 
1608 By C* J no Smith, & Faithfullie Set Down in Its Severall Parts By 
the Same. And Below, in an antique, almost illegible hand, the narrative 
commenced, not as a diary at all but as a summary account, probably meant 
as the initial draft of part of the. author's well-known Generall Historie of 
Virginia: 

Seven souldiers, six gentlemen, D r Russell the Chirurgeon & my selfe did 
embark from the towne of Kecoughtan, in Virginia^ in June of the present 
yeer 1608, 

To wdk a wayless Way with uncouth Pace, 
W ch yet no Christian Man did ever trace. . . . 

Much farther than this the poet dared not read at the moment, but he 
could not refrain from thumbing rapidly through the rest of the manuscript 
in search of the name Henry Burlingame. It did not take long to find: 
No sooner was the King asleep, he read on an early page, then I straightway 
made for the doore, and w* have fulfill'd his everie wish, had not L d 
Burlingame prevented me, and catching hold of my arme, declared, That 
he did protest my doing this thing. . . . 

"Burlingame a Lord!" Ebenezer exclaimed to himself, and joyfully thrust 
the manuscript into his shirt, holding it fast under the waist of his breeches. 
He peeped out onto the deck. All seemed clear: the only man in a position 
to spy him was the Moor in the Cyprian's mizzenrigging, and he was 
occupied with climbing down for further conquests, leaving his first quite 
ravaged in the ratlines. The sun was setting; its long last rays lit the scene 
unnaturally, from the side, with rose and gold. 

"Hi ho, Master Eben!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 273 ] 

The Laureate quailed at the salute, which greeted him as soon as he 
stepped out of Captain Pound's cabin. But the voice was Bertrand's. 

"Stupid fellow! He'll do me in yet!" He looked for the valet in vain on 
the shallop's deck: the sailmaker stood alone by the railing. 

"Come along, Master Eben! Over here!" The voice came from the direc- 
tion of the brigantine. Horrified, Ebenezer saw Bertrand standing in the 
vessel's stern, about to have at a plump lass whom he was bending over 
the taffrail, Ebenezer signaled frantically for the man to come back, but 
Bertrand laughed and shook his head. "They've asked us to join 'em!" he 
called, and turned to his work. 

For Ebenezer to slip aboard unnoticed was unthinkable in the face of 
this defection. All over the Cyprian the debauch continued; the hapless 
women, gilded by the sunlight, had for the most part abandoned hope, 
and instead of running, submitted to their attackers with pleas for mercy 
or stricken silence. The poet shuddered and fled to his cell in the rope- 
locker, determined, since he could not make his escape, to take advantage 
of the diversion to read through the precious manuscript. He borrowed 
a lamp from the fo'c'sle, closed the heavy door, took out the Journal, and 
lay on his bed of tattered sailcloth, where he read as follows: 

Seven souldiers, six gentlemen, D 1 * Russell the Chinirgeon & my selfe did 
embark from the towne of Kecoughtan, in Virginia, in June of the present yeer 
1608, 

To -walk a wayless Way with uncouth Pace, 
W cl1 yet no Christian Man did ever trace. , 

We took for the voiage a barge of three tonnes burthen, to the provisioning 
-whereof I earlie set the great Liverpooler Henry Burlingame, that I durst not 
leave behind to smirch my name with slander & calumnie. Yet scarce had we 
dropt Kecoughtan to Southward, then I found the wretch had play'd me false; 
to feed the companie of fifteene men the summer long, he had supply 9 d one 
meager sack of weevilie oats and a barricoe of cloudie water! I enquir'd of him, 
W d he starve us? Or did he think to make me turn tayle home? W ch latter hope 
I knew, he shar'd with all the idle Gentlemen his fellows. Then I set them dl 
to short rations and fishing over the gunwhales, albeit I knew no means to cooke 
a fish in the barge. The truth was, I reckoned on a landfall within two dayes, but 
said naught of it, and what fish they caught I threw back in the Bay. I then 
commenced instructing one & dl in the art of sayles & tiller, w* matters the 
souldiers took to readilie and the Gentlemen complayn'd of none lowder then 
L d Burlingame, that I had a-bayling water from the bilge. 

This Burlingame w d say to his neighbour, What doth the Captain reck it if 
we perish? What time he getteth in a pickle, we Gentlemen must grubb him out, 
eke some naked Salvage wench ftieth down from Heaven to save his neck. By 



[ 274 I THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

w oh he referr'd to Pocahontas, Powhcttans daughter, that some months past had 
rescu'd me, and I saw, he meant to devill me through the voiage. 

Next day we rays'd a cape of land, lying due North of Kecoughtan t and the 
companie rejoyc'd thereat, inasmuch as there bellies all complctyn'd of meale & 
clowdie water. We made straightway to shoar, whereupon we found a pair of 
fearsome Salvages, arm'd with bone-poynt speares. I made bold to salute them, 
and was pleas' d to learn, they spake a tongue like Powhatans, to w ch Emperour 
they declar'd them selves subject. The fiercenesse of these men was in there 
paynt alone; they were but spearing fish along the shallows. Upon my entreatie, 
they led us to there town and to there King, that was call'd Hicktopeake. 

Then follow' d an adventure, w ch I cannot well include among my Histories. 
I shall set it down upon these privie pages, for that it shews afresh that. enmity 
I spake of, betwixt L d Burlingame & my selfe, w ch led us anon to the verie doore 
of Death. . . . 

"Mercy!" Ebenezer cried, and turned the page. 

This Hicktopeake, then, bade us well come to his Kingdom, the w oh he did 
call Accomack, and lay'd before us a sumptuous meale. I observed him, while 
that we ate, and I sweare him to be the comliest, proper, civill Salvage we in- 
counter 1 d. I din'd well, as is my wont, and also Walter the physician and the 
souldiers, but our Gentlemen shew'd smalle appetyte for Salvage cookerie. Burlin- 
game, in especiall, shew'd little stomacke, for a man of his corpulencie, and who 
had been erst so lowd of his bellie. The meale done, Hicktopeake delivered him 
selfe of a smalle speech, again bidding us well come to his towne, and offering to 
replenishe our supplies ere we left him. It seem'd to me then, he shew'd a curious 
eagernesse; that we s hd tarrie somewhile with him, but I learn' d not the cause of it 
at once. 

On my enquiring of him, the extent of his Kingdom? Hicktopeake reply'd 
onely that it was. of considerable breadth, and ran awaye up the countrie, untill 
that the land grewe wider. This territorie he rul'd conjoyntlie with his Brother, 
one Debedeavon, called by the Salvages, the Laughing King of Accomack. Debe- 
deavons towne, we learn' d was farther inland, where he liv'd with his Queene in a 
goodlie house. I ask'd then, Where was Hicktopeakes Queene? meaning no more 
then a courtesie by my question. But seeing his face grewe all beclowded, I sought 
to change the topick, and inquired, Why was Debedeavon cdl'd the Laughing 
King? Whereupon, albeit I knew not why, Hicktopeakes wrath did but increase, 
so that he was scarce able to contain him selfe. I sdwe no frute in farther inquirie, 
and $o held my peace, and smoak'd of the tobacco that was then pa$t round. 

Hicktopeake at length regayning somewhat of his controll, he did command 
my partie to be given lodging for the night, and I consented, for that the skye was 
lowing, and bade fowk weather. The Gentlemen and my selfe, were given place 
in Hicktopeakes howse, that for all his being King, was but a single roome of large 
dimension. All did forthwith set them selves to sleep, save Burlingame, who ever 
hownds my steps, and sleeps not save^when I sleep also. The King & I then 
smoak'd many pipes beside the fyre, in dR silence. I knew well, he was desirous of 
speaking farther to me, but that after the manner of the Salvage, he tarry' d long 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2 75 ] 

ere commencing. For this reason I yearn 9 d that Burlingame $ M retyre, that we 
might speake privilie, but this he w d not f maugre my hints & suggestions. 

At last Hicktopeake spake, and talk'd a great -while of trifling things, as is the 
Salvages -wont. Then he said, in substance (for I am here Englishing his speech] , 
Sir, ye doubtlesse mark me a batchelor, for that no wife attendeth me in my 
house, or at my board, and farther, that upon thy enquirie, Where was my 
Queene? I mayde thee no replie. Yet in this thou art mistaken. Queene have I in 
sooth, and of surpassing comelinesse, that I have onely latelie had to wife. Yet 
wife she is not, for is it not the first requirement of a wife, that she seeke not far- 
ther than her wedded spouse, for her felicitie? But my Queene, she findeth me 
deficient, though I mark my selfe a man in everie wise, and she goeth about un- 
satisfy'd. And Queene she is not, for is it not the first requirement of a Queene, 
that she doe naught but what will shewe the, greatnesse of her King? But my 
Queene, from her dissatisfaction with my manlinesse, doth ever seek pleasure in 
the howses of other men, thereby bringing disgrace upon my head; and stille she 
goeth unsatisfy'd, by her own pronouncement. Now this is an evill thing, for that 
not onely doth this woman dishonour my selfe, and keep me for ever wearie, but 
also she fatigueth all the young men of my towne, and old as well. She is even as 
is the leech, that having tasted bloud, can never drink his fille; or as the owle, that 
devoureth all the myjce of the field, and goeth ye't hungrie to her nest. My 
Brother, Debedeavon, maketh. much of this matter, and laugheth at me still 
(wherefor they call him > the Laughing King). A wife he hath, that he keepeth 
well satisfy' d, and hence regardeth him selfe my better, as doe his people mine. 
(Yet is his wife a mowse, and lightlie filtd, for that oft have I try'd her my own 
selfe, the while my brother fish'd.) Therefore 1 aske of thee of the faire skinne 
this, that ye assaye to please the Queene 7 or teach her to be pleas'd even with 
that w A she hath alreadie, to the end that peace & honour may reign in my 
towne, and my Brother mock me no farther. For I judge of thy dresse, thy strange 
vessell, and thy manlie bearing, thou art no common man, but a doer of won- 
ders. 

Thus spake this Hicktopeake, and I heard him with amazement, for that most 
men, that c d not satisfye there wives, were loath to own there deficiencie to an- 
other man. Yet I did admire his truthfullnesse & candour, & his generositie, in 
inviting my selfe to attempt^ what he c* not doe. With as much of grace as I c* 
muster, I accepted Hicktopeakes offer, whereupon he shew'd me a doore of his 
howse, the w oh he said, open'd upon the chamber of the Queene. Then he lay'd 
him selfe down next the fyre and slept, onely fitfullie, as well a man might, that 
hath granted leave to another to go in unto the wife of his bed. 

No sooner was the King asleep, then I straightway made for the doore, and w* 
have fulfilVd his everie wish, had not L* Burlingame prevented me, and catching 
hold of my arme, said, That he did protest my doing this thing. I enquifd, Why 
did he protest? seeing that I knew him for no Catholick Saint. Whereto he re- 
ply* d, Thai be that as may, he purposed to doe the thing him selfe, for that I had 
received the favours of Pocahontas, and had deftowr'd that same maide by. scurril- 
ous subterfuge, whereas he had enjoy' d naught of her, nor had layn with woman, 
since that he set sayle from London. Moreover, he declar'd, That S M I refuse him 



[ 2j6 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

this favour (albeit he was in my debt for his scurvie life), he meant to noyse the 
truth about my egg-plant receipt all over Jamestowne, and London as well. 

Hereupon I told him, That he c d plough the Salvage Queene all he chose, I 
car'd not, and said farther, That were she halfe the Messdina good Hicktopeake 
made her out, it w d want more man then tenne of Burlingame, to pacifie her. This 
said, I bow'd him to the doore, and joyn'd my mooring fellows at the fyre. Yet I 
went not to sleep my owne selfe, but rested awake & smoak'd tobacco, thinking, 
That in all probabilitie my nights adventures were not done. 

At length Burlingame return' d, much out of humour, and upon my enquiring 
of him, Was the Queen so lightlie pleas' d? he but broke wind at me, and seeing 
the King stule slept, call'd her divers kinds of whoore & peddle-bumme. He w*, 
he said, have gone into her, for that she had received him with friendlinesse enow, 
but that when he stoode all readie to doe his carnall work, she had demanded of 
him, Where was his monie? and he having naught to offer, save a parcell of to- 
bacco, she straightway turn 1 d upon her bellie, and w d no more of him. Whereon 
he had left her. 

I did laugh greatlie at this tale, and said to him, that he w d ever fare iU in con- 
quests of women, for that he was put off so lightlie. And it was a happie thing, for 
both our heads, that Powhatan erst had set my selfe to pierce his daughters nether 
armour, and not him. By way of answer, Burlingame but broke wind againe, and 
said, That if I wish'd to make good my boasts, the doore was yet unlatch* d, and 
the Queene yet flatt upon the grownd. For him, he w* nothing farther of the 
whoore, be she Queene or scullerie maide. 

I hi f d me then without losse of time to the Queenes apartment, leaving 
Burlingame at the fyre to stewe in his owne cowardice. Directlie my. eyes grewe 
us'd to the dark, I made out the Queene her selfe, once more upon her back. She 
was a passing comelie Salvage, I C* see, with gracious features, shapelie limbs, and 
a smalle flatt bellie, and her papps & other appurtenancies were such, as to whett 
any mans lust Upon her directing me, in Salvage jargon, to doe my wille, 
I prick d up like a doggs eare, at smelle of meate. I presented my selfe as C a *>* J 7 * 
Smith of Virginia, deeming it a beastlie thing, to swive a woman without first ex- 
changing cordialities. But to this she pay'd no heed a all, onely shew'd me, by cer- 
taine movements, she mark'd such pleasantries a waste of time. Therefore I 
hasten' d to undoe my t selfe, and had clipp'd her on the instant, but that she stay'd 
my ardour; and pointing to that place, the w c7t she had in Salvage fashion pluck 9 d 
bald as a biskett & bedawb'd with puccoon paynt, she demanded first some pay- 
ment, saying, That she was not wont to bestowe her charms for naught. 

This troubled me not a whitt, for that I was us'd to dealing with both whoores 
& Salvages. I fetch'd up my breeches, and withdrewe therefrom a fistfull of 
bawbles, that ever charme the Salvage eye. These I gave her, but she flung them 
awaye, and demanded something more. I gave her then a\ smalle charme, that I 
had got from a dead Moor, the w oh was said to have magick powers, but this 
neither she deign' d to accept After that I offered the slutt a lewd figure done in 
ivorie, a smalle coyne inscribed in filthie Arabick, and the pledge of twelve yardes 
of Scotch cloth, to be deliver' d on the next boat from London all to no avdle. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 277 ] 

She w* have six lengths of wompompeag, she sdd, or nine of roanoke, for her 
favours, and naught besides, for that her other lovers were wont to pay that 
summe for her bodie, she being the Queene. I made replye, That I had no Sal- 
vage monies on my person, nor meanes of acquiring any, but w d she grant me sat- 
isfaction of my lust, I w d send her a pound Sterling from Jamestowne, enough 
coyn to purchase a bakers dozen tarts in London. But the Queene w* none of my 
pound Sterling, and rolling on her bellie, let goe a fart w 071 had done honour to 
Elizabeth her selfe. I did declare, That Cw* j Smith was not put off so lightlie f 
and when that she reply 1 d as before, I vow'd to have my fille of her regardlesse. 
There is a saying amongst the worldlie French, that when a man cannot eate 
thrush, he must perforce make doe with crowe. I tarry r d no longer, but straight- 
way work'd upon the Queene that sinne, for w h the Lord rayn'd fyre upon the 
Cities of the.Playne. ... 

When that I had done, I drewe away and waited for the Queene to catt 
her bodie-guards to fetch me, u^ I suppos'd she w d forthwith. For a space she lay 
a-panting on the grownd, and when at last she had her winde, tooke from her 
necke tenne strings of wompompeag, w ch she presented me. She then declared, 
That she had got love enow that night, to give her payne till the new moone. So 
saying, she felle into a swoone-like sleep, and I retired to the other roome, to chide 
Burlingame for his want of fancie. This he took in his wonted ill humour, for that 
I had the better of him yet againe. . . 

I did sleep late into the daye, and when I woke, found Hicktopeake in his royall 
chaire, with all his Lieutenants round about. He had bade them be silent, the 
while I slept, and on my rowsing up came forward, and embraced me, and declared 
I S M be second in rule over his towne, and have the comeliest Salvage of his tribe 
to wife, for that I had restored his peoples peace. I enquired, How was that so? &nd 
he made answer, That the Queene had come to him that dawne, and beggd for^ 
givenesse for her infidelitie, and swore that so satisfy' d was she of me, she never 
w* againe goe a-roving from the Kings bedstead. Onely, he said, he fear'd her re- 
solve might not endure for long; it must needs have been by meanes of some un- 
common virilitie I had pleased her, and I was leaving his towne anon. 

With that I led him aside, and related to him privilie the simple trick I had 
employ' d, assuring him, that he c d doe the thing as well as 1. For so smalle was the 
puddle, any frogg seem'd greate therein. Hicktopeake had never heard of such a 
practice (w* h I had learnt from the scurvie Arabs) , and he listened in amazement. 
Naught w* then suffice but he must put his learning to the test, and so he hi'd 
him selfe apace from out the roome. 

While that he was gone thus a-wooing, I gather 9 d together my compcmie, and 
told them to make readie our vessell, for I design' d to sayle that selfe same morn- 
ing, to take up the course of our explorations. They did set to at once, all save 
Burlingame, that grows' d about the shoarline kicking pebbles, and we were neare 
readie to sayle, when Hicktopeake came out from his howse. He embfac'd me 
dgaine, this time more warmlie then before, and beggd me stay in his towne for 
ever, as his Prince & successor. So had he woo'd the Queene, he said, she w* be 
three days rysing from her bed, and costive the week. But I declined his offer, 
saying, That I had business elsewhere to attend. After much debate he did re- 



[ 278 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

signe him selfe, and gave me leave to goe, presenting, me & my companie with.dl 
manner of Salvage gifts, and food & water for our vesselL 

Thus at last we did set sayle once more, and headed for the maine, and what- 
ever lay before us. I was a trifle loath to goe, and w d fain have tarry 1 d some smdle 
space, for that Hicktopeake did declare to me his intention, of journeying to the 
towne of Debedeavon his Brother, and there so ploughing Debedeavons Queene, 
after the manner he had learnt, as to confound his Brother for ever. Whereupon 
he, Hicktopeake, s be the Laughing King of Accomack. W*> forsooth were worth 
the witnessing. But the favour of Kings is a slipperie boone, lightlie granted & as 
lightlie forsworne, and I deem'd it more prudent to absent my selfe betimes, 
while that I was yet in his good graces, then to linger, and perchance weare out 
my welcome there in Accomack. . . . 

Here ended the narrative, or what fragment of it Meech had brought 
aboard. Ebenezer read it again, and a third time, hoping to find in it some- 
thing to connect Henry Burlingame with his luckless namesake in the story. 
But there was every indication that Captain Smith's antagonist, who Henry 
hoped would prove to be his ancestor, was not only childless but un- 
married, and his future with the company of explorers was far from promis- 
ing. With a sigh the Laureate assembled the pages of the Journal and con- 
cealed it under his sailcloth bed, where no one was likely to find it. Then 
he extinguished the lantern and sat for some while in the dark. The naked 
sounds of rape, floating through the shallop's foVsle, conjured pictures clear 
enough to make him shiver. Together with the story in the manuscript 
which was as much a revelation to him as it had been to Hicktopeake 
they forced his reverie willy-nilly into a single channel, and before long he 
found himself physically moved by desire. He could not in honesty assert 
that his pity for the Cyprian girls was unambiguous, or his condemnation 
of their assault wholehearted; if he had been shocked by the spectacle, 
he had also been excited by it, and so fascinated that no lesser business 
than that of the Journal could have summoned him away. Indeed, the 
sight of the young girl trapped in the rigging like a fly in a web, and of 
Boabdil climbing leisurely up to envelop her like a great black spider, had 
aroused him as its memory aroused him now. 

It was abundantly clear to him that the value of his virginity was not a 
moral value, even as he had explained to Bertrand one day on the Poseidon. 
But the mystic ontological value he had ascribed to it seemed less convincing 
now than it had seemed then. The recollection of Joan Toast's visit to his 
room,, for example, which was customarily dominated by his speech at her 
departure or the hymn to virginity composed afterwards, stopped now at 
the memory of the girl herself, sitting pertly on his bed, and would go no 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 279 ] 

farther. She had leaned forward and embraced him where he knelt before 
her: her breasts had brushed like cool silk on his forehead; his cheek had 
lain against the cushion of her stomach; his eyes had lingered close to The 
Mystery! 

From outside came another cry, a hard, high protest that trailed into 
lamentation. There was an ancient ring to it, an antique sorrow, that put 
the poet in mind of Philomela, of Lucretia, of the Sabine virgins and the 
daughters of Troy, of the entire wailing legion of the raped. He went to 
the companionway, and climbing it looked skyward at the stars. How 
trifling was the present scene to them, who had watched the numberless 
wars of men, the sack of nations, and the countless lone assaults in field 
and alley! Was there a year in time when their light had not been dimmed, 
somewhere on earth, by the flames of burning cities? That instant when he 
stepped out on the deck, how many women heard in England, Spain, and 
far Cipango the footfall of the rapist on the stair, or in the path behind? 
The ranks of women ravished, hundreds and thousands and millions strong, 
of every age and circumstance the centuries rang and echoed with their 
cries; the dirt of the planet was watered with their tears! 

The scene aboard the Cyprian was considerably less violent now, though 
by no means tranquil. Around the masts her crew were still tied fast, and 
watched the festivities in sullen silence; thus far none had been harmed. 
The pirates, their first lust spent, had broken out the rum and were fast 
succumbing to it. Already some lay senseless in the scuppers; others 
sprawled with their prizes on the decks and cabin roofs, taking drinks and 
liberties by turn, but no longer able to consummate their wooing; still others 
had lost interest altogether in the women they danced, sang bawdy songs, 
or played ombre under lanterns in the balmy air, almost as on any other 
evening at sea. From the cabins came the sound of more carousing, but not 
of violence: two girls, it seemed, were being obliged to perform some trick 
against their will, and Ebenezer heard several women join in the general 
laughter and encouragement. 

"So lightly they accept their fate!" He thought again of the Trojan 
widows, advised by Hecuba to resign themselves without protests to being 
concubines and slaves. 

The least enviable lot, so far as he could see, was that of seven ladies 
trussed hip to hip over the Cyprian's starboard rail in classic pirate fashion, 
so that their heads and upper bodies hung over the somewhat lower shallop; 
yet even these, despite the indignity and clear discomfort of their position, 
were not entirely overwhelmed with misery. One, it is true, appeared to 



[280] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

be weeping, though she was not being molested at the moment, and 
two others stared expressionless at their arms, which were lashed at the 
wrist to the bottom of the balusters; but the others were actually gos- 
siping with Carl the sailmaker, who smoked his pipe on the shallop's deck 
before them! At sight of Ebenezer, who came up beside him, they were 
not in the least abashed. 

"Oh dear," said one, feigning alarm, "here comes another!" 

"Ah, now, he seems a likely lad," said her neighbor, who was older. "Ye'd 
not do aught unchivalrous,, would ye, son?" 

Even as they laughed, a drunken pirate reeled up behind them. 

"Ouch!" cried the one to whom he made his presence known. "Tell him, 
Carl, 'tis not my turn! Hi! The wretch takes me for a roast of mutton! Tell 
him, Carl!" 

The sailmaker, by reason of his age, had some authority among his ship- 
mates. "Have at some other, matey," he advised. The pirate obligingly 
moved to the tearful youngster on the end, who at his first touch gave a cry 
that pierced Ebenezer to the heart. 

"Nay, ye blackguard* don't dare jilt me!" cried the woman first molested. 
"Come hither to one that knows what's what!" 

"Aye, leave the child in peace," another scolded. "I'll show ye how 'tis 
done in Leicestershire!" Aside to her companions she added, "Pray God 
'tis not the Moor!" 

"Ye asked fort," said the pirate, and returned to his original choice. 

"Marry, there's a good fellow!" she cried, pretending pleasure. "'Sheart, 
what a stone-horse, girls!" To her neighbor she said in a stage whisper, " Tis 
not the Moor by half, but Grantham gruel: nine grits and a gallon o' water. 
Aiel Gramercy, sir! Gramercyl" 

The other three were highly entertained. 

"Your friend is yonder in the cabin," Carl said to Ebenezer. "Hop to't 
if ye've a mind for the ladies, for we shan't tarry here much longer." 

"Indeed?" Ebenezer shifted uncomfortably; the women were regarding 
him with interest. "Perhaps I'd better see what mischief Bertrand is about." 

"Ah, 'sblood, he doth not care for us," one of the women said. "He likes 
his friend better." The rest took up the tease, even the one being wooed, 
and Ebenezer beat a hasty retreat. 

"I cannot fathom it," he said to himself. 

Though he had dismissed entirely the notion of stowing away aboard 
the Cyprian and had little or no interest in his valet's present activities, he 
borrowed courage enough from those two motives to board the brigantine, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 281 ] 

having first walked aft to escape the women's remarks. He could not deny, 
however, his intention to stroll bgck in their direction from the vantage 
point of the Cyprian's deck, at least out of curiosity. He climbed to the 
rail and grasped the brigantine's mizzen shrouds to pull himself over. 
When by chance he happened to look aloft, the moonlight showed him a 
surprising sight: high in the mizzen-rigging the Moor's first conquest still 
hung, forgotten by all; her arms and legs stuck through as though in stocks. 
One could not judge her condition from below: perhaps she maintained 
her perch out of fear, hoping to escape further assault; or it could be she 
was a-swoon her position would keep her from falling. Neither was it im- 
possible that she was dead, from the bite of her great black spider. Assuring 
himself that only his curiosity wanted satisfying, but in a high state of 
excitement nonetheless, Ebenezer swung his feet not to the deck of the 
Cyprian but onto the first of the mizzen ratlines, and methodically, in the 
manner of Boabdil, climbed skyward to the dangling girl. . . . 

His ascent caused the shrouds to tremble; the girl stirred, peered down- 
wards, and buried her face with a moan. The poet, positively dizzied with 
desire, made crooning noises in her direction. 

"I shall have at thee, lass! I shall have at thee!" 

When he had got but halfway up, however, Captain Pound stepped out 
from the cabin below, and the Moor ordered all hands back to the shallop. 
The men responded with loud protests but nevertheless obeyed, taking 
desperate final liberties as they went. Ebenezer doubled his rate of climb. 

"I shall have at thee!" 

But Boabdil's voice came up from below. "You in the mizzen-rig! Down 
with ye, now! Snap to't!" 

The girl was literally within reach, but to no avail. "Thou'rt a lucky 
wench!" he called up boldly. 

The girl looked down at him. In the moonlight, from the present dis- 
tance, she bore some slight resemblance to Joan Toast, the recollection of 
whom had fired his original desire. There was a look of horror on her face. 

Weak with excitement, Ebenezer called out to her again: "A minute 
more and I had split thee!" 

She hid her face, and he climbed down. A few minutes later the pirates 
had cast off the grapples and were doing their best to make sail. Looking 
back over the widening stretch of ocean, Ebenezer saw the women of the 
Cyprian untie their colleagues at the rail and set free the crew. Up in the 
mizzen-rigging he could still discern the white figure of the girl, his desire 



[ 282 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

for whom, unsatisfied, began already to discommode him. The relief he 
felt at the accidental rescue of his essence was, though genuine, not nearly 
so profound a sensation as had been his strange possession in the rigging, 
which he could not begin to understand. Surely,, he insisted, there was 
more to it than simple concupiscience: if not, why did the thought 
of the Moor's attack, for example, make him nearly ill with jealousy? 
Why had he chosen the girl in the ratlines instead of those along the rail? 
Why had her resemblance to Joan Toast (which for that matter he 
may only have fancied) inflamed rather than cooled his ardor? His whole 
behavior in the matter was incomprehensible to him. 

He turned away and made for his cell in the rope-locker, both to assure 
himself of the safety of his precious manuscript and in some manner to 
alleviate, if he could, his growing pain. Even as he lowered himself down 
the foVsle companionway a sharp, shrill female cry rang out through the 
darkness from the brigantine's direction, followed by another and a third. 

"Their turn, now," said someone on the shallop, and a number of the 
pirates chuckled. The blood rushed from Ebenezer's brain; he swayed on 
the ladderway and found it necessary to pause a moment, his forehead 
pressed against an upper rung. 

"She's but a whore; a simple whore/' he said to himself, and was obliged 
to repeat the words several times before he could proceed with his descent. 

Whether because he thought he had put it away for safekeeping before 
boarding the Cyprian or because he was too drunk on returning to notice 
its absence, Captain Pound did not disclose the loss of the Journal fragment 
until after noon of the following day, by which time Ebenezer had found 
an even better hiding-place for it. Thinking it imprudent to trust his valet 
too far, he had waited until Bertrand went on deck that morning and 
had then transferred his prize from under his pallet to a fold in the canvas 
of a brand new sail which lay at the bottom of a pile of others on a large 
shelf near at hand. Thus when in the afternoon he and Bertrand stripped 
to the skin with the rest of the crew and stood by while Boabdil and the 
Captain combed the ship, he was not alarmed to see them throw aside the 
rag-beds in his cell: for them to unfold and refold every spare sail on the 
shelf would have been unthinkable. After a two-hour search failed to dis- 
cover the manuscript, Captain Pound concluded that someone from the 
Cyprian had sneaked aboard to steal it. All that day and the next the pirates 
raced to find the brigantine again, until the sight of Cape Henlopen and 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [283] 

Delaware Bay put an end to the chase and forced them back to the safety 
of the open sea. 

His loss made the Captain daily more sour and irascible. His suspicion 
naturally fell heaviest on Ebenezer and Bertrand: though he had no reason 
to believe that either had prior knowledge of the Journal's presence on the 
ship and no evidence that either had stolen it both had been seen aboard 
the Cyprian, for example he nevertheless confined them to their cell again, 
out of ill humor. At the same time he had the Moor lay ten stripes on the 
sailmaker's aged back as punishment for failing to see the thief: the flogging 
could be heard in the rope-locker, and Ebenezer had to remind himself, 
uncomfortably, that the manuscript was exceedingly valuable to the cause 
of order and justice in Maryland. To Bertrand, who had nearly swooned 
during the search of their quarters, he declared that he had thrown the 
Journal into the sea for fear of discovery, and that old Carl was after all a 
pirate whom any judge ashore would doubtless hang. 

"Nonetheless," he added resolutely, "should I hear they mean to kill or 
torture anyone for't, even that loathesome beast Boabdil, I shall confess." 
Whether he would in fact,, he did not care to wonder; he made the vow 
primarily for Bertrand's sake, to forestall another defection. 

"Small difference whether ye do or no," the valet answered, "Our time's 
nigh up in either case." He was, indeed, perilously disheartened; from the 
first he had been skeptical of Ebenezer's plan to escape, and even that long 
chance was precluded by their present confinement. In vain did Ebenezer 
point out that it was Bertrand who, by his conduct aboard the Cyprian, 
had spoiled their best opportunity to escape: such truths are never con- 
solations. 

Their prospects darkened as the day of the shallop's scheduled rendez- 
vous approached. They heard the crew in the fo'c'sle complain of the 
Captain's mounting severity: three had been put on short rations for no 
greater crime than that Pound had overheard them comparing notes on 
the Cyprian women; a fourth, who as spokesman for the group had in- 
quired how soon they would put into some port, had been threatened with 
keelhauling. Daily the two prisoners feared that he would take it into his 
head to put them to some form of torture. The one bright happenstance of 
the entire period, both for the crew and for Ebenezer, was the news that 
the Moor, whom they had come to resent for executing the Captain's orders, 
had been blessed by one of his victims on the brigantine with a social 
disease. 

"Whether 'tis French pox or some other, I don't know," said the man 



[284] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

who had the news, "but he is sore as a boil oft and cannot walk to save him/' 
Ebenezer readily assumed that it was the girl in the mizzen-rigging who 
had been infected, for though Boabdil had assuredly not confined his exer- 
cise to her, none of the other pirates showed signs of the malady. The 
disclosure gave him a complexly qualified pleasure: in the first place he 
was glad to see the Moor thus repaid for the rape, yet he quite understood 
the oddity of this emotion in the light of his own intentions. Second, the re- 
lief he felt at so narrowly escaping contagion himself, like the relief at 
having his chastity preserved for him, failed to temper his disappointment as 
he thought it should. And third, the presence of infection suggested that the 
girl had not been virginal, and this likelihood occasioned in him the follow- 
ing additional and not altogether harmonious feelings: chagrin at having 
somewhat less cause to loathe the Moor and relish his affliction; disap- 
pointment at what he felt to be a depreciation of his own near-conquest; 
alarm at the implication of this disappointment,, which seemed to be that 
his motives for assaulting the girl were more cruel than even the Moor's, 
who would not have assumed her to be virginal in the first place; awe at 
the double perversity that though his lust had been engendered at least 
partially by pity for what he took to be a deflowered maiden, yet he felt in 
his heart that the pity was nonetheless authentic and would have been 
heightened, not diminished, during his own attack on her, whereas the 
revelation that she had not lost her maidenhead to Boabdil materially 
diminished it; and finally, a sort of overarching joy commingled with relief 
at a suspicion that seemed more probable every time he reviewed it the 
suspicion that his otherwise not easily accountable possession by desire, 
contingent as it had been on the assumption of her late deflowering 
and his consequent pity, was by the very perverseness of that contingency 
rendered almost innocent, an affair as it were between virgins. This mystic 
yearning of the pure to join his ravished sister in impurity: was it not, in 
fact, self-ravishment, and hence a variety of love? 
'Very likely/' he concluded, and chewed his index fingernail for joy. 
How Captain Pound explained his dereliction, the Laureate never 
learned. The six weeks ran their course; well after dark on the appointed 
day the prisoners heard another ship saluted by the pirates, and the sound 
of visitors brought aboard from a longboat. Whatever the nature of the 
parley, it was brief: after half an hour the guests departed. All hands were 
ordered aloft, and into the rope-locker came the sounds of the pirates mak- 
ing sail in the gentle breeze. As soon as the shallop gained steerage-way the 
acting first mate none other than the boatswain impressed from the 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 285 ] 

Poseidon, who had so rapidly and thoroughly adjusted to his new circum- 
stances that Pound appointed him to replace the ailing Moor climbed 
down into the fo'c'sle, unlocked the door of the brig, and ordered the 
prisoners on deck. 

"Aie!" cried Bertrand. "'Tis the end!" 

"What doth this mean?" the Laureate demanded. 

"'Tis the end! Tis the end!" 

" Tis the end o' thy visit," the boatswain grumbled. "I'll say that much/' 

"Thank Heav'n!" Ebenezer cried. "Is't not as I said, Bertrand?" 

"Up with ye, now." 

"One moment," the poet insisted. "I beg you for a moment alone, sir, 
ere I go with you. I must give thanks to my Savior." And without waiting 
for reply he fell to his knees in an attitude of prayer. 

"Ah, well, then " The boatswain shifted uncertainly, but finally 

stepped outside the cell. "Only a moment, though; the Captain's in foul 
spirits." 

As soon as he was alone Ebenezer snatched the Journal manuscript from 
its hiding-place nearby and thrust it into his shirt. Then he joined Bertrand 
and the boatswain. 

"I am ready, friend, and to this cell bid Adieu right gladly. Is't a boat 
hath come for us, or are we so near shore? 'Sblood, how this lifts my heart!" 

The boatswain merely grunted and preceded them up the companionway 
to the deck, where they found a mild and moonless mid-September night. 
The shallop rode quietly under a brilliant canopy of stars. All hands were 
congregated amidships, several holding lanterns, and greeted their ap- 
proach with a general murmur. Ebenezer thought it only fit that he bid 
them farewell with a bit of verse, since all in all they had, save for the past 
six weeks, treated him quite unobjectionably: but there was not time to 
compose, and all he had in stock, so to speak (his notebook having -been 
left behind, to his great sorrow, on the Poseidon) was a little poem of 
welcome to Maryland that he had hatched at sea and committed to 
memory unhappily not appropriate to the occasion. He resolved therefore 
to content himself with a few simple remarks, no less well turned for their 
brevity, the substance of which would be that while he could not approve 
of their way of life, he was nonetheless appreciative of their civil regard for 
himself and his man. Moreover, he would conclude, what a man cannot 
condone he may yet forgive: Many a deed that the head reviles finds 
absolution in the heart; and while he could not but insist,, should they ever 
be apprehended at their business, that their verdict be just, he could pray 



[286] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

nonetheless, and would with his whole heart, that their punishment be 
merciful. 

But it was not his fortune to deliver himself of these observations, for 
immediately upon reaching the gathering he and Bertrand were set upon 
by the nearest pirates and held fast by the arms. The group separated into 
a double column leading to the larboard rail, from the gangway of which, 
illuminated by the flickering lanterns, the prisoners saw a plank run out 
some six feet over the sea. 

"Nay!" Ebenezer's flesh drew up in goose bumps. "Dear God in 
Heav'n!" 

Captain Pound was not in sight, but somewhere aft his voice said "On 
with't." The grim-faced pirates drew their cutlasses and held them ready; 
Ebenezer and Bertrand, at the inboard end of the gauntlet, were faced 
toward the plank, released, and at the same moment pricked from behind 
with swords or knives to get them moving. 

"From the first, gentlemen, I have been uncertain which of you is 
Ebenezer Cooke," said Captain Pound. "I know now that the twain of you 
are impostors. The real Ebenezer Cooke is in St. Mary's City, and hath 
been these several weeks." 

"Nay!" cried the poet, and Bertrand howled. But the ranks of steel blades 
closed behind them, and they were shortly teetering on the plank. Below 
them the black sea raced and rustled down the freeboard; Ebenezer saw it 
sparkle in tie flare of the lanterns and fell to his knees, the better to clutch 
at the plank. No time for a parting song like that of Arion, whose music had 
summoned dolphins to his rescue. In two seconds Bertrand, farther out- 
board, lost his balance and fell with a screech into the water. 

"Jump!" cried several pirates. 

"Shoot him!" others urged. 

'TGodI" wailed Ebenezer, and allowed himself to tumble from the plank. 



16: THE LAUREATE AND BERTRAND, LEFT TO DROWN, 
ASSUME THEIR NICHES IN THE HEAVENLY PANTHEON 



FOR BETTER OR WORSE, THE LAUREATE FOUND THE WATER WARM; THE 

initial shock of immersion was gone by the time he scrabbled to the surface, 
and when he opened his eyes he saw the lights of the shallop's stern,, already 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [287] 

some yards distant, slipping steadily away. But despite the moderate 
temperature of the water his heart froze. He could scarcely comprehend 
his position: uppermost in his mind was not the imminence of death at all, 
but that last declaration of Captain Pound's, that the real Ebenezer Cooke 
was in St. Mary's City. Another impostor! What marvelous plot, then, was 
afoot? There was of course the possibility that Burlinganie, so clever at 
disguises, had arrived safely and found it useful to play the poet, the further 
to confound Coode. But if he had learned of Ebenezer's capture from 
passengers on the Poseidon, as one would suppose, surely he understood 
that assuming his identity would jeopardize his friend's life; and if instead 
he believed his ward and protg6 dead, it was hard to imagine him having 
the heart for imposture. No, more likely it was Coode himself who was 
responsible. And to what evil purpose would his name be turned? Ebenezer 
shuddered to think. He kicked off his shoes, the better to stay afloat; the 
precious manuscript too he reluctantly cast away, and began treading water 
as gently as possible so as to conserve his strength. 

But for what? The hopelessness of his circumstances began to make itself 
clear. Already the shallop's lights were small in the distance, obscured by 
every wave; soon they would be gone entirely, and there were no other 
lights. For all he knew he was in mid-Atlantic; certainly he was scores of 
miles from land, and the odds against another ship's passing even within 
sight by daylight were so great as to be unthinkable. Moreover, the night 
was young: there could be no fewer than eight hours before dawn, and 
though the seas were not rough, he could scarcely hope to survive that 
long. 

"I'faith, I am going to die!" he exclaimed to himself. "There is no other 
possibility!" 

This was a thing he had often pondered. Always, in fact ever since his 
boyhood days in St. Giles, when he and Anna played at saints and Caesars 
or Henry read them stories of the past he had been fascinated by the aspect 
of death. How must the cutpurse feel, or the murderer, when he mounts the 
stairway to the gibbet? The falling climber, when he sees the rock that 
will dash out brains and bowels? In the night, between their bedchambers, 
he and his sister had examined eveiy form of death they knew of and 
compared their particular pains and horrors. They had even experimented 
with death: once they pressed the point of a letter knife into their breasts as 
hard as they dared, but neither had had the courage to draw blood; another 
time each had tried being throttled by the other, to see who could go the 
farthest without crying out, But the best game of all was to see who could 



[ 288 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

hold his breath longer; to see, specifically, whether either was brave enough 
to hold it to the point of unconsciousness. Neither had ever reached that 
goal, but competition carried their efforts to surprising lengths: they would 
grow mottled, their eyes would bulge, their jaws clench, and finally would 
come the desperate explosion of breath that left them weak. There was a 
terrible excitement about this game; no other came so close to the feel of 
death, especially if in the last frantic moments one imagined himself buried 
alive, drowning, or otherwise unable to respire at will. That speculation 
made one wild; the breath roared out. It was a sport too moving, too up- 
setting, to play often. 

It is not surprising, therefore, that however unparalleled in his experience, 
Ebenezer's present straits were by no means novel to his imagination. 
Death by drowning was a consideration intimately bound up with the 
breath-holding game, one they had several times explored. Even the details 
of stepping from the plank at night, clawing from the depths for air, and 
watching the stern lights slip away they had considered, and Ebenezer al- 
most knew ahead of time how tie end would feel: water catching the 
throat and stinging the nose, the convulsive coughing to expel it, and the 
inevitable reinspiration of air where no air was,, the suck of water into 
the lungs; then vertigo, the monstrous pressure in head and chest, and 
worst of all the frenzy, the anxiety of the body not to die, that total 
mindless lust for air which must in the last seconds rend body and soul 
unspeakably. When he and Anna chose their deaths, drowning along with 
burning, slow crushing, and similar protracted agonies was disqualified at 
once, and the news that anyone had actually suffered such an end would 
thrill them to the point of dizziness. But in his heart the fact of death and 
all these senuous anticipations were to Ebenezer like the facts of life and the 
facts of history and geography, which, owing to his education and natural 
proclivities, he looked at always from the storyteller's point of view: notion- 
ally he admitted its finality; vicariously he sported with its horror; but never, 
never could he redly embrace either. That lives are stories, he assumed; 
that stories end, he allowed how else could one begin another? But that 

the storyteller himself must live a particular tale and die Unthinkable! 

Unthinkable! 

Even now, when he saw not the slightest grounds for hope and knew 
that the dread two minutes must be on him soon, his despair was as notional, 
his horror as vicarious, as if he were in his chamber in St. Giles playing the 
dying-game, or acting out a story in the summ^rhouse. Bertiand, he as- 
sumed with some envy, had strangled on his water and was done with it; 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 289 ] 

there was no reason why he himself should not get it over with at once. 
But it was not simply fear that kept him paddling; it was also the same 
constitutional deficiency that had made him unable to draw his own blood, 
will himself unconscious, or acknowledge in his heart that there really had 
been a Roman Empire. The shallop was gone. Nothing was to be seen 
except the stars, or heard except the chuckle of water around his neck, yet 
his spirit was almost calm. 

Presently he heard a thrashing in the sea nearby; his heart pounded. " Tis 
a shark!" he thought, and envied Bertrand more than ever. Here was some- 
thing that had not occurred to him! Why had he not drowned himself at 
once? The thing splashed nearer; another wave and they were in the same 
trough. Even as Ebenezer struck out in the opposite direction, his left leg 
brushed against the monster. 

"Aief he shrieked, and "Nay!" cried the other, equally alarmed. 

"Dear God!" said Ebenezer, paddling back. "Is't you, Bertrand?" 

"Master Eben! Praise be, I thought 'twas a sea-serpent! Thou'rt not 
drowned?" 

They embraced each other and came up sputtering. 

"Get on with't, or we shall be yet!" the poet said, as happy as though his 
valet had brought a boat. Bertrand observed that it was but a matter of time 
after all, and Ebenezer replied with feeling that death was not so terrible 
in company as alone. 

"What say you/' he proposed, in the same spirit wherewith he had used 
to propose the breath-game to Anna: "shall we have done with't now, to- 
gether?" 

"In any case 'twill not be many minutes," Bertrand said. "My muscles 
fail me already." 

"Look yonder, how the stars are darkened out." Ebenezer pointed to a 
lightless stretch on the western horizon. "At least we'll not need to weather 
that storm." 

"Not I, 'tis certain." The valet's breath came hard from the exertion of 
paddling. "Another minute and I'm done." 

"Howe'er you've injured me before, friend, I forgive you. We'll go to- 
gether." 

"Ere the moment comes," Bertrand panted, "I've a thing to say, sir " 

"Not sir/" cried the poet. "Think you the sea cares who's master and 
man?" 

"'tis about my gambling on the Poseidon" Bertrand continued. 



[ 2QO ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Long since forgiven! You lost my money: I pray you had good use oft! 
What need have I of money now?" 

"There's more, sir. You recall the Parson Tubman offered odds " 

"Forgiven! What more's to lose, when you had plucked me clean?" 

But Bertrand would not be consoled. "What a wretch I felt, sir! I 
answered to your name, ate at your place, claimed the honors of your 
post " 

"Speak no more oft!" 

"Methought Tis he should tumble Lucy on these sheets, not I, and then 
I lost your forty pound as well! And you, sir, in a hammock in the fo'c'sle, 
suffering in my place!" 

" Tis over and done," Ebenezer said kindly. 

"Hear me out, sir! When that fearful storm was done and we were 
westering, I vowed to myself I'd have ye back that money and more, to pay 
ye for your hardship. The Parson had got up a new swindle on raising the 
Virginia Capes, and I took a notion to woo Miss Lucy privily to my cause. 
Then we would fleece the fleecer!" 

" 'Tis a charitable resolve, but you'd naught to use for stakes " 

"Nor did some others that had been gulled," Bertrand replied. "They 
threatened to take a stick to Tubman for all he was a cleric. But he smelled 
what was in the wind, and gave 'em a chance to bet again on Maryland. 
They'd but to pledge some property or other " 

"I'faith!" cried Ebenezer. "His cassock frocked a very Jew!" 

"He had the papers drawn like any lawyer: we'd but to sign, and we 
could wager to the value of the property." 

"You signed a pledge?" Ebenezer asked incredulously. 

"Aye, sir." 

"Dear God! To what?" 

"To Maiden, sir. I " 

"To Maiden!" Such was the poet's amazement he forgot to paddle, and 
the next wave covered his head. When he could speak again he demanded, 
"Yet surely 'twas no more than a pound or two?" 

"I shan't conceal it, sir; 'twas rather more." 

"Ten pounds, then? Twenty? Ha, out with't, fellow! What's forty pounds 
more to a drowning man? What is't to me if you lost a hundred?" 

"My very thought, sir," Bertrand said faintly; his strength was almost 
gone. "'Twas e'en for that I told ye, now we're drowning men. Lookee 
how the dark comes closer! Methinks I hear the sea rising yonder, too, 
but I shan't be here to feel the rain. Farewell, sir." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 291 ] 

"Wait!" Ebenezer cried, and clutched his servant by one arm to help 
support him. 

'Tin done, sir; let me go/' 

"And I, Bertrand; I shall go with thee! Was't two hundred you lost, 
pray?" 

" Twas but a pledge, sir/' Bertrand said. "Who's to say I lost a farthing? 
For aught I know thou'rt a wealthy man this moment." 

"What did you pledge, man? Three hundred pounds?" 

Bertrand had stopped treading water and would have gone under had 
not Ebenezer, paddling furiously, held him up with one hand by the shirt 
front. 

"What doth it matter, sir? I pledged it all," 

"AZZ/" 

"The grounds, the manor, the sot-weed in the storehouse Tubman holds 
it all." 

"Pledged my legacy!" 

"Prithee let me drown, sir, if ye won't yourself." 

"I shall!" said Ebenezer. "Sweet Maiden gone? Then farewell, and God 
forgive you!" 

"Farewell, sir!" 

"Stay, I am with thee yet!" Master and man embraced each other. "Fare- 
well! Farewell!" 

"Farewell!" Bertrand cried again, and they went under. Immediately both 
fought free and struggled up for air. 

"This will not do!" Ebenezer gasped. "Farewell!" 

"Farewell!" said Bertrand. Again they embraced and went under, and 
again fought free. 

"I cannot do't," said Bertrand, "though my muscles scarce can move, 
they bring me up." . 

"Adieu, then," said the poet grimly. "Thy confession gives me strength 
to die alone. Farewell!" 

"Farewell!" 

As before, Ebenezer automatically took a deep breath before sinking 
and so could not do more than put his face under. This time, however, 
his mind was made up: he blew out the air, bade the world a last farewell* 
and sank in earnest. 

A moment later he was up again, but for a different reason. 

"The bottom! I felt the bottom, Bertrand! Tis not two fathom deep!" 

"Nay!" gasped the valet, who had been near submerged himself. "How 



[2Q2] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

can that be, in the middle of the ocean? Haply 'twas a whale or other 
monster." 

"'Twas hard sand bottom!" Ebenezer insisted. He went below again, 
this time fearlessly, and from a depth of no more than eight feet brought 
up a fistful of sand for proof. 

"Belike a shoal, then," Bertrand said, unimpressed. "As well forty 
fathom as two; we can't stand up in either. Farewell!" 

"Wait! Tis no cloud yonder, man, but an ocean isle we've washed to! 
Those are her cliffs that hide the stars; that sound is the surf against her 
coast!" 

"I cannot reach it." 

"You can! 'Tis not two hundred yards to shore, and less to a standing 
place!" Fearing for his own endurance, he waited no longer for his man 
to be persuaded, but struck out westwards for the starless sky, and soon 
heard Bertrand panting and splashing behind. With every stroke his con- 
jecture seemed more likely; the sound of gentle surf grew distant and rec- 
ognizable, and the dark outline defined itself more sharply. 

"If not an isle, at least 'twill be a rock," he called over his shoulder, 
"and we can wait for passing ships." 

After a hundred yards they could swim no farther; happily, Ebenezer 
found that by standing on tiptoe he could just clear the surface with his 
chin. 

'Very well for you, that are so tall," lamented Bertrand, "but I must 
perish here in sight of land!" 

Ebenezer, however, would hear of no such thing: he instructed the valet 
to float along behind him, hands on the poet's shoulders for support. It 
was tedious going, especially for Ebenezer, only the balk of whose feet 
were on the bottom: the weight behind pulled him off balance at every 
step, and though Bertrand rode clear, his weight held Ebenezer at a con- 
stant depth, so that only between waves could he catch his breath. The 
manner of their progress was thus: in each trough Ebenezer secured his 
footing and drew a breath; when the wave came he stroked with both arms 
from his breast and, with his head under, rode perhaps two feet one of 
which would be lost in the slight undertow before he regained his footing. 
Half an hour, during which they covered no more than forty or fifty feet, 
was enough to exhaust his strength, but by then the water was just shallow 
enough for the valet to stand as well. It required another thirty minutes 
to drag themselves over the remaining distance: had there been breakers 
they might yet have drowned, but the waves w^re never more than two 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2 93l 

feet high, and oftener less than one. At last they reached a pebbly beach 
and, too fatigued for words, crawled on all fours to the base of the nearby 
cliff, where they lay some while as if a-swoon. 

Presently, however, despite the mildness of the night and the protection 
provided by the cliff against the westerly breeze, they found their resting- 
place too cold for comfort and had to search for better shelter until their 
clothes were dry. They made their way northward along the beach and 
were fortunate enough to find not far away a place where the high sand- 
stone was cut by a wooded ravine debouching onto the shore. Here tall 
wheatlike weeds grew between the scrub pines and bayberries; the castaways 
curled together like animals in a nest and knew no more till after dawn. 

It was the sand fleas that roused them at last: scores of sand fleas hopped 
and crawled all over them attracted, luckily, not by hunger but by the 
warmth of their bodies and tickled them awake. 

Ebenezer jumped up and looked unbelievingly about. "Dear God!" he 
laughed. "I had forgot!" 

Bertrand too stood up, and the sand fleas not really parasites at all- 
hopped madly in search of cover. 

"And I," he said, hoarse from exposure. "I dreamt I was in London with 
my Betsy. God pox those vermin for waking me!" 

"But we're alive, at that. Tis more than anyone expected." 

"Thanks to you, sir!" Bertrand fell to his knees before the poet. "'Tis 
a Catholic saint that saves the man who ruined him!" 

"Make me no saint today," Ebenezer said, "or you'll have me a Jesuit 
tomorrow." But he was flattered nonetheless. "No doubt I had better 
drowned when Father hears the news!" 

Bertrand clasped his hands together. "Many's the wrong I've done ye, 
sir, that I'll pay in Hell for, anon nor shall I want company in the fire. 
But I vow ye a vow this instant I'm your slave fore'er, to do with as ye 
will, and should we e'er be rescued off this island I shall give my life to 
gaining back your loss." 

The Laureate, embarrassed by these protestations, replied, "I dare not 
ask it, lest you pledge my soul!" and proposed an immediate search for food. 
The day was bright, and warm for mid-September; they were chilled 
through from exposure, and upon brushing the sand from themselves 
found their joints stiff and every muscle sore from the past night's labors. 
But their clothes were dry except for the side on which they'd slept, and a 
little stamping of feet and swinging of arms was enough to start the warm 
blood coursing. They were without hats, wigs, or shoes, but otherwise ade- 



[294] TEDE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

quately clothed in the sturdy garb of seamen. Food, however, they had to 
find, though Ebenezer longed to explore the island at once: their stomachs 
rumbled, and they had not much strength. To cook their meal was no 
great problem: Bertrand had with him the little tinderbox he carried in 
his pocket for smoking purposes, and though the tinder itself was damp, 
the flint and steel were as good as new, and the beach afforded drift- 
wood and dry seaweed. Finding something to cook was another matter. 
The woods no doubt abounded with small game; gulls, kingfishers, rails, 
and sandpipers soared and flitted along the beach; and there were certainly 
fish to be caught in the shallows; but they had no implements to hunt with. 

Bertrand despaired afresh. " 'Tis a passing cruel prank fate plays us, to 
trade a quick death for a slow!" And despite his recent gratitude, the surli- 
ness with which he rejected various proposals for improvising weapons be- 
trayed a certain resentment toward Ebenezer for having saved him. Indeed, 
he shortly abandoned as hopeless the search for meaiis and went to gather 
firewood, declaring his intention to starve at least in relative comfort. Eben- 
ezer, left to his own resources, resolved to walk some distance down the 
beach, hoping to find inspiration along the way. 

It was a long beach. In fact, the island appeared to be of considerable 
size, for though the shoreline curved out of sight in both directions, its 
reappearance farther south suggested a cove or bay, perhaps a succession 
pf them; one could not locate the actual curve of the island's perimeter. 
Of its body nothing could be seen except the line of stratified cliffs, caved 
by the sea and weathered to various browns and oranges, and the edge 
trees of the forest that ran back from the precipice some with half their 
roots exposed, some already fallen the sixty or a hundred feet to the beach 
and polished like pewter by salt air and sand. If one scaled those cliffs, 
what wonders might one see? 

Ebenezer had been at sea nearly half a year in all, yet never had he seen 
it so calm. There was no ground swell at alh only catspaws riffling here 
and there, and laps of waves not two hands high. As he walked he no- 
ticed minnows darting in the shallows and schools of white perch flipping 
and rippling a few feet out. Crabs, as well, of a sort he had never seen, 
slid sideways out to safety as he approached; in the water their shells were 
olive against the yellow sand, but the carapaces he found along the beach 
were cooked a reddish-orange by the sun. 

'Would God I had a net!" 

Arpund a bend just past the place where they had crawled ashore he 
saw a startling sight all along the foreshore, below the line of weed and 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 2 95 1 

driftwood that marked high tide, were sheets of white paper; others rolled 
and curled in the rim of the sea. The thought that there might be people 
on the island made his face burn, not entirely with joy in fact, it was a 
curious relief he felt, small but undeniable, when the papers proved to be 
the tale of Hicktopeake, Laughing King of Accomack; but he could not 
as yet say plainly what it was that relieved him. He gathered all the pages 
he could find, though the ink had run so that only an occasional word 
was legible; they would, when dry, be good for lighting fires. 

He started back with them, thinking idly of John Smith's adventures. 
Did this curious pleasure stem from the fact that he, like Smith, was in 
terra incognita, or was there more to it? He hoped they would find no 
Indians, at least, like the fearsome fellows Smith had found spearing fish 
along the shore. . . . 

" 'Sheart!" he cried aloud, and kissed the wondrous Journal. 

An hour later their dinner was on the fire: seven respectable perch, half 
a foot long after cleaning, roasted on a green laurel turnspit, and on a thin 
piece of shale such as could be picked up anywhere along the cliffs, four 
crabs, frankly an experiment, fried in their natural juices. The hard-shelled 
ones could not be speared, but in pursuit of them Bertrand had found 
these others similar in appearance but with shells soft as Spanish kid- 
brooding in clumps of sea-grass near the shore. Nor did they want for water; 
in a dozen places along the base of the cliff Ebenezer had found natural 
springs issuing from what looked like layers of hard clay, whence they ran 
seawards across the beach on the beds of softer clay one encountered every 
few hundred feet. One had, indeed, to take care in approaching these springs, 
for the clay beds were slippery and in places treacherously soft,, as Ebenezer 
learned: without warning one could plunge knee-deep into what looked 
rock-hard on the surface. But the water was clean and sweet from filtering 
through the stone, and so cold it stung the teeth. 

To get full benefit of the sun they did their cooking on the beach. 
Bertrand, humbled anew by his master's inspiration, attended the meal;, 
Ebenezer made use of a fallen tree nearby for a back rest and was content 
to chew upon a reed and regard the sputtering crabs. 

"Where do ye fancy we are?" inquired the valet, whose curiosity had 
returned with his good spirits. 

"God knows!" the poet said cheerfully. " 'Tis some Atlantic isle, that's 
sure, and belike not giv'n on the charts, else I doubt me Pound would 
choose the spot to plank us." 



[ 296 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

This conjecture pleased the valet mightily. "I have heard tell of the 
Fortunate Islands, sir; old Twigg at St. Giles was wont to speak of 'em 
whene'er her gout was paining." 

"Well I recall it!" Ebenezer laughed "Didn't I hear from the cradle 
how she stood watch all the voyage from Maryland, hoping for a sight 
of them?" 

"Think ye this is the place?" 

Tfaith, 'tis fair enough," the poet granted. "But the ocean swarms with 
isles that man knows naught of. How maijy times dear Anna and I have 
pled with Burlingame to tell of them Grocland, Helluland, Stokafixa, and 
the rest! How many fond hours I've pored over Zeno the Venetian, Peter 
Martyr d'Anghiera, and good Hakluyt's books of voyages! E'en at Cam- 
bridge, when I had better done other things, I spent whole evenings over 
ancient maps and manuscripts. 'Twas there at Magdalene, in the antique 
Book of Lismore, I saw described the Fortunate Islands dear old Mrs. 
Twigg yearned for, and read how St. Brendan found them. 'Twas there 
I learned of Markland, too, the wooded isle; and Frisland and Icaria. 
Who knows which this might be? Haply 'tis Atlantis risen from the sea, 
or the Sunken Land of Buss old Frobisher found; haply 'tis Bra, whose 
women have much pain in bearing children, or magic Daculi, the cradle 
island, where they go for gentler labor." 

"It matters naught to me," said Bertrand, "so we be not killed by salvages. 
Tis a thing I've feared for since we stepped ashore. Did ye read what 
manner of husbands the wenches have?" 

"I've shared your fear," Ebenezer admitted. "Some isles are bare of men; 
others, like famed Cibola, boast wondrous cities. Some are like Estotiland, 
whose folk are versed in every art and read from books in Latin; some 
others are like her neighbor Drogio, where Zeno says the salvages eat 
their captives." 

"Pray Heav'n this is not Drogio!" 

"We shall climb to the cliff top when we've eaten," Ebenezer said "If 
I can see the island whole, I may be able to name it." He went on to 
explain that, while the location and size of islands varied widely from map 
to map, there was some agreement among cartographers as to their shape. 
"If 'tis in the form of a great crescent, for example, 'twill of necessity be 
Mayda; if a small one, 'tis doubtless Tanmare, that Peter Martyr spoke of. 
A large parallelogram would be Antillia; a smaller one Salvagio. A simple 
rectangle we shall know for Ilia Verde, and a pentagon for Reylla. If we 
find this isle to be a perfect circle, we must look farther for its inland 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 297 ] 

features: if 'tis cut in twain by a river we shall know it for Brazil, but if in- 
stead 'tis a kind of ring or annulus about an inland lake, the which hath 
sundry islets of its own, then Heav'n hath smiled on us as ne'er on Coro- 
nado, for 'twill be Cibola, the Isle of the Seven Golden Cities!" 

" 'Sheart, may we find it so!" said Bertrand, turning the fish to brown. 
"Twere not like folk in a golden city to eat up strangers, d'ye think?" 

"Nay, 'tis more likely they'll take us for gods and grant our every 
pleasure," Ebenezer declared. "Such was the luck of stout Cortez among 
the Aztecs, that had a town of gold: e'en the Emperor Montezuma bowed 
to him" 

"Marry, I hope and pray 'tis the Isle of Seven Cities, then; I shall have 
three and you the rest, to make up for losing Maiden! Doth the book say 
aught of the women in these towns, whether they be fat or thin, or fair 
of face?" 

"Naught that I can recall," the poet replied. 

"I'God, let us make short work of these fish, sir!" Bertrand urged, sliding 
them from the laurel spit to the clean-washed slates they had found to eat 
from. "I cannot wait to see my golden towns!" 

"Be not o'erhasty, now; this may not be Cibola after all. For aught we 
know it may lie in the shape of a human hand, in which case our goose 
is cooked: Hand-of-Satan hath such a shape, and 'tis one of the InsuLae 
Demoniumthe demons' isles." 

This final possibility chastened them sufficiently to do full justice to the 
perch and soft crabs, which they seasoned with hunger, ate with their fingers, 
and washed down with clamshellfuls of cold spring water. Then they 
stuffed an extra soft crab each into their pockets, grease and all, and climbed 
through the ravine to the top of the cliff, whence to their chagrin 
they could see no more than open water on one side of them and trees 
on the other. The sun was still but forty-five degrees above the eastern 
horizon; there was time for some hours of exploration before they need 
think of dinner and a shelter for the night. 

"What course do ye propose, sir?" Bertrand asked. 

"I have a plan," said Ebenezer. "But ere I tell it, what course do you 
propose?" 

" Tis not for me to say, sir. I'll own I have spoken out of turn befot^ 
but that's behind me. Ye have saved my life and forgiven the harm I've 
done ye; I'll dance to any tune ye call." 

Ebenezer acknowledged the propriety of these sentiments, but took issue 
with them nevertheless. "We are cast here on some God-forsaken isle," he 



[ 298 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

said, "remote from the world of bob-wig and dildo. What sense here hath 
the title Poet Laureate, or the labels man and master? Thou'rt one man, 
I another, and there's an end on't." 

Bertrand considered this for a moment. "I confess I have my preferences," 
he said. "If 'twere mine to decide, I'd strike out inland with all haste. Haply 
we'll find one or two golden cities ere dinnertime." 

"We've no certain knowledge this is the Isle of Seven Cities/' Ebenezer 
reminded him, "nor do I relish walking overland without shoes. What I 
propose is that we walk along the shore to learn the length and shape of 
the island. Haply 'twill identify our find, or show us what manner of people 
live here, if any. Nay, more, we've paper aplenty here, and charcoal sticks 
to mark with: we can count our paces to every turn and draw a map as we 

go" 

"That's so," the valet admitted. "But 'twould mean another meal of fish 
and soft crabs and another night upon the ground. If we make haste in- 
land, haply 'tis golden plates we'll eat from, and sleep in a golden bed, 
by Heav'n!" His voice grew feverish. "Just fancy us a pair of bloody gods, 
sir! Wouldn't we get us godlets on their maiden girls and pass the plate 
come Sunday? Tis a better post than Baltimore's paltry sainthood, 
b'm'faith! I'd not trade places with the Pope!" 

"All that may happen yet," Ebenezer said. "On the other hand we 
might encounter monsters, or salvage Indians that will eat us for dinner. 
Methinks 'twere wise to scout around somewhat, to get the lay of the land: 
what do a few days matter to an immortal god?" 

The prudence of this plan was undeniable; reluctant as he was to post- 
pone for even a day the joys of being a deity, Bertrand had no mind to 
be a meal for either cannibals or dragons both of whose existence he might 
have been skeptical of in London, but not hereand so agreed to it readily, 
if not enthusiastically. They made their way down to the beach again, 
marked their point of departure with a stake to which was tied a strip of 
rag from Bertrand's shirt, and struck out northward along the shore, Eben- 
ezer counting paces as they walked. 

He had not reached two hundred when Bertrand caugjit his arm. 

"Hark!" he whispered. "Listen yonder!" 

They stood still. From behind a fallen tree not far ahead, a hackle- 
raising sound came down on the breeze: it was half a moan, half a tuneless 
chant, lugubrious and wild, 

"Let us flee!" Bertrand whispered. "'Tis one of those monsters^" 

"Nay," Ebenezer said, his skin a-prickle. "That is no beast." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 299 ] 

"A hungry salvage, then; come on!" 

The cry floated down to them again. 

"Methinks 'tis the sound of pain, not of hunger, Bertrand. Some wight 
lies hurt by yonder log/' 

"God save him, then!" the valet cried. "If we go near, his friends will 
leap us from behind and make a meal of us." 

"You'll give up your post so lightly?" Ebenezer teased, "What sort of 
god are you, that will not aid his votaries?" 

A third time came the pitiable sound, and though the valet stood too 
terrified to move, Ebenezer approached the fallen tree and peered over 
it. A naked black man lay there on the sand, face down, his wrists and ankles 
bound; his back was striped with the healed scars of many floggings, and 
from myriad cuts and scratches on his legs he bled upon the sand. He was 
a tall, well-muscled man in the prime of life, but obviously exhausted; his 
skin was wet, and a spotty trail of blood ran from where he lay to the 
water's edge. Even as Ebenezer watched him from above, unobserved, he 
lifted his head with a mighty effort and resumed the woeful incantation, 
chanting in a savage-sounding tongue. 

"Come hither!" the poet called to Bertrand, and scrambled over the log. 
The Negro wrenched over on his side and shrank against the tree trunk, 
regarding the newcomer wildly. He was a prepossessing fellow with high 
cheekbones and forehead, massive browbones over his great white eyes, a 
nose splayed flat against his face, and a scalp shaved nearly bald and 
scarified like his cheeks, forehead, and upper arms in strange designs. 

"God in Heaven!" Bertrand cried on seeing him. The black man's eyes 
rolled in his direction. " 'Tis a regular salvage!" 

"His hands are bound behind him, and he's hurt from crawling over the 
stones." 

"Run, then! He'll ne'er catch up with us!" 

"On the contrary," said the Laureate, and turning to the black man he 
said loudly and distinctly, "Let-me*untie~the-ropes." 

His answer was a string of exotic gibberish; the black man clearly ex- 
pected them to kill him momently. 

"Nay, nay," Ebenezer protested. 

"Prithee do not do't, sir!" said Bertrand. "The wretch will leap on ye 
the minute he's free! Think ye these salvages know aught of gratitude?" 

Ebenezer shrugged. "They could know no less oft than some others. 
Hath he not been thrown, like us, into the sea to die and made his way 
by main strength to this shore? I-am4he-Poet-Laureate-of-Maryland" he 



[ 300 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

declared to the black man; "I-will-not-harm-you" To illustrate he bran- 
dished a stick as though to strike with it, but snapped it over his knee 
instead and flung it away, shaking his head and smiling. He pointed to 
Bertrand and himself, flung his arm cordially about the valet's shoulders 
and said "This-man^nd-I-are-friends. You" he pointed to all three in turn 
"shall-be-our-friend'OS'-well" 

The man seemed still to be fearful, but his eyes showed more suspicion 
now than dread. When Ebenezer forcibly moved behind him to release 
his hands and Bertrand, at his master's insistence, reluctantly went to work 
on the ropes that bound his feet, the fellow whimpered. 

Ebenezer patted his shoulder. "Have no fear, friend/' 

It took some labor to undo the ropes, for the knots were swollen from 
the water and pulled tight by the captive's exertions. 

"Whose prisoner do ye take him for?" asked Bertrand. "My guess is, he's 
one of those human sacrifices ye told me of, that the folk in golden cities 
use in lieu of money on the Sabbath." 

"That may well be," the poet agreed. "His captors must in sooth be 
clever men, and no mere salvages, else they ne'er could make such fine 
stout rope or tie such wondrous hitches in't. Haply they were ferrying him 
to the slaughter when he escaped; or belike 'twas some sea-god he was 
meant for. Confound these knots!" 

"In any case," said Bertrand, "'twill scarcely please 'em to learn we set 
him loose. 'Tis like stealing from the collection plate in church." 

"They need not know oft. Besides, we are their rightful gods, are we 
not? What we do with our offerings is our own affair." 

This last, to be sure, he spoke in jest. They loosened the final knots and 
retreated a few paces for safety's sake, not certain what the man would 
do. 

"We'll run in different directions," Ebenezer said. "When he takes out 
after one, the other will pursue him from behind." 

The black shook off the loosened bonds, still looking warily about, and 
rose with difficulty to his feet. Then, as if realizing that he was free, he 
stretched his limbs, grinned mightily, raised his arms to the sun, and de- 
livered a brief harangue in its direction, interspersing his address with 
gestures in their direction. 

"Look at the size of him!" Bertrand marveled. "Not e'en Boabdil was 
so made!" 

Ebenezer frowned at mention of the Moor. "Methinks he's speaking to 
the sun now; belike 'tis a prayer of thanks." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ JO1 ] 

"He is a very percheron stud!" 

Then, to their considerable discomfort, the fellow ended his speech and 
turned to face them; even took a step towards them. 

"Run!" cried Bertrand. 

But no violence was offered them; instead, the black prostrated him- 
self at their feet and with muttered reverences embraced their ankles each 
in turn; nor would he rise when done, but knelt with forehead on the 
sand. 

"'Sbody, sir! What doth this signify?" 

"I would not say for certain," Ebenezer , replied, "but it seems to me 
you have what erst you wished: This wight hath bid his farewells to the 
sun and taken us for his gods," 

And so indeed it seemed; the man moved not a muscle, but remained 
in his attitude of worship, clearly awaiting his benefactors' pleasure. 

"Ffaith," the valet said uncomfortably. "We did not ask for this! What 
in Heav'n would he have us do?" 

"Who knows?" the poet answered. "I never was a god till now. We gave 
him his life, and so he's ours to bless or bastinado, I suppose." He sighed. 
"In any case let's bid him rise ere he takes a backache: no god keeps men 
upon their knees forever." 



17: THE LAUREATE MEETS THE ANACOSTIN KING 
AND LEARNS THE TRUE NAME OF HIS OCEAN ISLE 



'ONE THING IS CERTAIN," EBENEZER SAID, WHEN THEY RESUMED THEIR 

exploration of the beach: "we must demand obedience of this fellow, if 
we're to be his deities. That is the clearest common attribute of gods, for 
one thing, and the safest policy besides: he may slay the twain of us if he 
learns we're mortal." 

They had raised the black man up and bade him wash his wounds, which 
happily were no worse than scratches from the shells, and had moreover 
presented him with the extra soft crabs cold and linty from their pockets, 
but edible nonetheless and stood by while he made short work of them. 
Their charity provoked a fresh display of prostrate gratitude, which acknowl- 
edged, they had squatted with him some while on the sand and tried by 



[ 02 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

words, gestures, and pictures drawn with sticks to hold converse. What was 
the name of the island? Ebenezer had asked him. What was his name? 
Where was his town? Who had bound his limbs and flung him into the 
sea, and for what cause? And Bertrand, not to be outdone, had added 
queries of his own: How distant from where they sat was the first of the 
golden cities? What sort of false gods had its citizens, and were the ladies 
dark or fair? 

But though the black man had heard their inquiries with worshipful 
attention, his eyes had shown more love than understanding; all they could 
get from him was his name, which though it was doubtless from no civi- 
lized tongue at all sounded variously to Ebenezer like Drehpunkter, 
Dreipunkter, Dreckpdchter, Drogueptcheur, Droitpacteur, Drupegre, 
Drfcheporteur, or even Despartidor, and to Bertrand invariably like 
Drdkepecker. For that matter it may have been not his name at all but 
some savage call to worship, since every time they said the word he made 
a genuflection. 

"What shall we do with him?" Bertrand asked. "He shows no mind to 
go about his business." 

"So be't," Ebenezer replied. "Let him help with ours, then. Tis readi- 
ness to take orders that makes the subject, and readiness to give them that 
makes the lord. Besides, if we set him labors enough he can plot us no 
mischief." 

They resolved^ therefore, to let the big black man accompany them as 
food- and wood-gatherer, cook, and general factotum; indeed, they were 
given little choice, for he clearly had no intention of leaving and could if 
angered have destroyed them both in half a minute. The three set out 
northward once again, Ebenezer and Bertrand in the lead and Drake- 
pecker a respectful pace or two behind. For an hour or more they trudged 
over pebbles, soft sand, and beds of red, blue, and egg-white clay, always 
with the steep unbroken cliff-face on their left and the strangely placid 
ocean on their right; every turn Bertrand expected to discover a golden 
city, but it would reveal instead only a small cove or other indentation 
of the shoreline, which in the main ran still directly north. Then, leg weary 
and footsore, they stopped to rest beneath the mouth of a natural cave 
some ten or twelve feet up on the cliff wall. The savage, to whom Ebenezer 
had entrusted the rude spear with which he'd caught their breakfast, in- 
dicated by brandishing it and rubbing his stomach a desire to forage for 
dinner; upon receiving permission he scrambled like a monkey up the rock- 
face and disappeared. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 303 ] 

Bertrand watched him go and sighed. " Tis the last we'll see of Drake- 
pecker; and good riddance, says I." 

"What!" Ebenezer smiled. "Thou'rt so soon tired of being God?" 

The valet admitted that he was. "I had rather do the work myself than 
lord it o'er so fearsome a wight as he. This very minute he might be plotting 
to spit the twain of us on his spear and fry us up for's dinner!" 

"I think not," said the poet. "He likes to serve us." 

"Ah, sir, no man enjoys his bondage! Think you there' d be a servant 
in the world, if each man had his choice? Tis ill luck, force, and penury 
that make some men serve others; all three are galling masters." 

"What then of habit, and natural predilection?" teased Ebenezer. "Some 
men are born to serve." 

Bertrand considered these for a moment and then said, "Habit's no first 
cause, but a child of bleak necessity, is't not? Our legs grew calloused to 
the pirates' shackles, but we wished them off us nonetheless. As for this 
natural bent to slavery, 'tis a tale hatched by the masters: no slave believes 
it." 

"A moment past you spoke of doing the chores thyself," Ebenezer said, 
"but never a word of me doing them; yet 'twas I proposed we forget our 
former stations, since the wilderness knows naught of classes." 

Bertrand laughed. "Then to my list of yokes add obligation; he's no more 
mild a master." 

"Call him gratitude or love instead," said Ebenezer, "and watch how 
men rejoice in their indenture! This Drakepecker, as you call him, chose his 
present bondage when we set him free of a worse, and he may end it by 
his own leave when he lists. Therefore I fear him not, and look to have 
him serve us many a day." He then asked the valet how he proposed to 
lord it over an entire city alone, if one subject shared between them scared 
him so. 

"'Tis god I want to be, not king," the valet said. "Let others give 
and take commands, or lead and put down mutinies; I'll stock me a temple 
with food and drink and sleep all morning in my golden bed! Ten young 
priestesses I'll have for company, that shall hear confessions and say the 
prayers in church, and a brace of great eunuchs to take collection and 
guard the money." 

"Sloth and viciousness!" 

"Would ye not do the same, or any wight else? Who wants the chore 
of ruling? 'Tis the crown men lust for, not the scepter." 

"Who weto the one must wield the other," Ebenezer answered* "The 



[ 304 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

man men bow to is lead sheep in a running flock, that must set their pace 
or perish." 

"Ye'll rule, then, in your city?" Bertrand wanted to know. 

"Aye," said Ebenezer. They were sitting side by side, their backs against 
the cliff, gazing idly out to sea. "And what a government would I establish! 
Twould be an anti-Platonist republic/' 

"I .should hope, sir! What need have you of the Pope, when thou'rt the 
god?" 

"Nay, Bertrand. This Plato spoke of a nation ruled by philosophers, to 
which no poets might be admitted save those that sing the praises of the 
government. There is an antique quarrel 'twixt poet and sage." 

"Marry, as for that," Bertrand said, "'tis little different from England 
or any place else; no prudent king would let a poet attack him. Why did 
Lord Baltimore employ ye, if not to sing the praises of his government, 
or John Coode work your ruin, if not to squelch the poem? Why, this 
wondrous place ye speak of could as well be Maryland!" 

"You miss my point," Ebenezer said uncomfortably. "To forbid a sub- 
ject for verse is one thing; to prescribe, another. In my town philosophers 
will all be welcome so long as they do not start insurrections but a poet 
shall be their god, and a poet their king, and poets all their councillors: 
'twill be a poetacracyl Methinks 'twas this Sir William Davenant had in's 
mind, what time he sailed in vain to govern Maryland. The poet-king, 
Bertrand-'tis a thought to conjure with! Nor fc't folly, I swear: who better 
reads the hearts of men, philosopher or poet? Which is in closer harmony 
with the world?" . 

He had more to say to Bertrand on the subject, which had been stewing 
all the morning in his fancy, but at this instant a pair of savages fell, 
as it were, out of the blue and stood before them, spears in hand. They 
were half-grown boys, no more than ten or twelve years old, dressed in 
matchcoats and deerskin trousers; their skin was not brown-black like Drake- 
pecker g but copper-brown, the color of the cliffs, and their hair, so far from 
being short and woolly, fell straight and black below their shoulders They 
put on the fiercest look they could manage and aimed their spears at the 
white men. Bertrand shrieked. - 

" 'Sheartr cried Ebenezer, and raised his arms to protect his face. "Drake- 
pecker! Where is Drakepecker!" 

- hath undone usr Bertrand wailed - <<llie mGicl * hath 



us 



But it was unthinkable that the boys had leaped from the cliff-top, and 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 305 ] 

unlikely that they had climbed down without making a sound or dislodging 
a pebble. It seemed probable to Ebenezer that they had been hiding in 
the cave, above their heads, waiting their chance to jump. One of them 
addressed the prisoners sharply in an unknown tongue, signaling them to 
rise, and pointed to the mouth of the cave. 

"Must we climb up?" asked Ebenezer, and for answer felt a spear point 
prick his ham. 

"Tell them we're gods!" Bertrand urged. "They mean to eat us alive!" 

The command was repeated; they scrambled up the rocks to the lip of 
the cave. The boys chattered as though to someone inside, and from the 
shadow an older, calmer voice answered. The prisoners were forced to enter 
bent over, since the roof was never more than five feet high. The inside 
stank of excrement and other unnameable odors. After a few moments, 
when their eyes grew accustomed to the dark, they saw a full-grown 
savage lying naked on a blanket on the floor, which was littered with shells, 
bones, and crockery pots. At least part of the stench came from his 
right knee, wrapped in ragged bandages. He raised himself on his elbows, 
wincing, and scrutinized the prisoners. Then, to their unspeakable sur- 
prise, he said "English?" 

"FGod!" Ebenezer gasped. "Who are you, sir, that you speak our 
tongue?" 

The savage considered again their matted hair, torn clothing, and bare 
feet. "You seek Quassapelagh? Did Warren send you for Quassapelagh?" 
The boys moved closer with their spears. 

"We seek no one," the poet said, clearly and loudly. "We are Englishmen, 
thrown into the sea by pirates to drown; we reached this isle last night, 
by great good fortune, but we know not where we are." 

One of the boys spoke excitedly and brandished his spear, eager to have 
at them, but the older man silenced him with a word. 

"Prithee spare us," Ebenezer pleaded. "We do not know this Warren 
that you speak of r or any soul else hereabouts." 

Again the youths made as if to run them through. The injured savage 
rebuked them more sharply than before and apparently ordered them to 
stand guard outside, for they evacuated the clammy cave with some show 
of reluctance. 

"They are good boys," the savage said. "They hate the English as much 
as I, and wish to kill you." 

"Then there are English on this island? What is the name oft?" Bertrand 
was still too frightened to speak, but Ebenezer, despite his recent daydreams 



[ 306 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

of a poet's island, could not contain his joy at the prospect of rejoining 
his countrymen. 

The savage regarded him narrowly. "You do not know where you are?" 

"Only that 'tis an ocean isle/ 7 the Laureate replied. 

"And you know not the name of Quassapelagh, the Anacostin King?" 

"Nay." 

For some moments their captor continued to search their faces. Then, 
as though persuaded of their innocence, he lay back on the pallet and 
stared at the roof of the cave. 

"I am Quassapelagh," he declared. "The Anacostin King." 

"KingF Bertrand exclaimed in a whisper to Ebenezer. "D'ye think 
he's king of one of our golden towns?" 

"This is the land of the Piscataways," Quassapelagh went on. "These 
are the fields and forests of the Piscataways. That water is the water of 
the Piscataways; these cliffs are our cliffs. They have belonged to the Pis- 
cataways since the beginning of the world. My father was a king in this 
land, and his father, and his father; and so for a time was I. But Quassapel- 
agh is king no more, nor will my sons and grandsons rule." 

"Ask him which way to the nearest golden town," Bertrand whispered, 
but his master gestured him to silence. 

<r \Vhy do you lie here in this miserable den?" Ebenezer asked " 'Tis 
no fit dwelling for a king, methinks." 

"This country is Quassapelagh's no more," the King replied. "Your 
people have stolen it away. They came in ships, with sword and cannon, 
and took the fields and forests from my father. They have herded us like 
animals and driven us off. And when I said, 'This land belongs to the 
Piscataways,' they turned me into prison. Our emperor, Ochotomaquath, 
must hide like an animal in the hills, and in his place sits a young whelp 
Passop, that licketh the English emperor's boots. My people must do his 
bidding or starve." 

"Injustice!" Ebenezer cried. "Did you hear, Bertrand? Who is this War- 
ren that so presumes, and makes me feel shame to be an Englishman? 
Some rogue of a pirate, I'll wager, that hath claimed the island for his own. 
1'faith!" He clutched at the valet's sleeve. "I recall old Carl, the sailmaker, 
spoke of a pirate town called Libertatia, on the Isle of Madagascar; pray 
God 'tis not the same!" 

"I know not the Emperor's name," Quassapelagh said, "for he hath but 
ktely come to oppress my nation. This Warren is but a jailer and chief 
of soldiers " 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 307 ] 

At this moment a great commotion began outside the cave. 

"Drakepecker!" Bertrand cried. 

There at the cave's mouth the great black stood indeed: at his feet, 
dropped in anger, lay the rude spear improvised by Ebenezer, on which 
two bloody rabbits were impaled, and in each great hand he held a young 
sentry by the neck. One he had already by some means disarmed, and 
before the other could use his weapon to advantage, the fearsome Negro 
cracked their heads together and flung them to the beach below. 

"Bravo!" Ebenezer cheered. 

"In here, Drakepecker!" Bertrand called, and leaped to pinion Quassa- 
pelagh. "Come hither and crack this rascal's head as well!" 

The Negro snatched up his spear and charged into the cave with a roar, 
plainly intending to add Quassapelagh to his other trophies. 

"Stay! Drakepecker!" Ebenezer commanded. 

"Stick him!" shouted Bertrand, holding Quassapelagh's arms from be- 
hind. The savage offered no resistance, but regarded the intruder with stern 
contempt. 

"I forbid it!" said Ebenezer, and grasped the spear. 

Bertrand protested: " 'Tis what the wretch designed for us, sir!" 

"If so, he showed no sign oft. Release him." When his arms were free 
Quassapelagh lay back on the blanket and stared impassively at the ceiling. 
"Those young boys were his sons," Ebenezer said. "Go with Drakepecker 
and fetch them here, if he hath not killed them." The two men went, 
Bertrand ^th considerable misgivings which he did not hesitate to give 
voice to, and Ebenezer said to Quassapelagh, "Forgive my man for in- 
juring your sons; he thought we were in peril. We mean you no harm at 
all, sir. You have suffered enough at English hands." 

But the savage remained impassive. "Shall I rejoice to find an English- 
man with mercy?" He pointed to his evil-smelling knee. "Which is more 
merciful, a spear in the heart or this poisoned knee, that I cut while flee- 
ing like a rabbit in the night? If my sons are dead, I starve; if they live 
I die of this poison. Your heart is good: I ask you to kill Quassapelagh." 

Presently Bertrand and the Negro returned, marching at the points of 
their spears the two young boys, who seemed to be suffering only from 
bruises and sore heads. 

"It is enough that my sons live," Quassapelagh said. "Tell your man to 
kill me now." 

"Nay, I've better work for him," Ebenezer said, and to Bertrand he 
declared, "Drakepecker will remain here with the king and mind his wants 



[ 208 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

while we sound the temper of these English bandits. The boys can lead us 
to the outskirts of their settlement." 

"Tis not mine to argue/' Bertiand sighed. "I only hope they've not 
snatched all the golden towns and set themselves up as gods/' 

Ebenezer then made clear to the Negro, by means of signs, that he 
wished him to feed the King and dress the infected knee; to the latter item, 
presented more as a query than a command, the black man responded 
with bright affirmative nods and an enthusiastic chatter that suggested 
acquaintance with some prophylactic or therapeutic measures. Without 
more ado he removed the dirty dressing and examined the malodorous in- 
flammation with a clearly chirurgical interest. Then, in his own tongue, 
accompanying his orders with enough gesticulation for clarity, he directed 
one of the boys to clean and cook the rabbits and sent the other to fetch 
two crockery pots of water. 

" 'Sheart!" Bertiand said respectfully. "The wighf s a physician as well! 
Tis an honor to be his god, is't not, sir?" 

The poet smiled. "Haply he merits a better, Bertrand; he is in sooth a 
masterly creation." 

Before two hours had elapsed, the rabbits were cooked and eatenalong 
with raw oysters provided by the youths and a kind of parched and pow- 
dered corn called rockahominy, of which the King had a large jarful and 
Quassapelagh's wound had been lanced with his own knife, drained of pus, 
washed clean, and dressed with some decoction brewed by the Negro out 
of various roots and herbs which he had gathered up in the woods while 
the rabbits were roasting. Even the savages were impressed by the perform- 
ance: the boys fingered their lumps with more of awe than of resentment, 
and Quassapelagh's hard eyes shone. 

"If the English are not far distant, I should like to have a look at them 
ere dark," the Laureate announced. When Quassapelagh replied that they 
were not above three miles away, he repeated his orders to the Negro, 
who, kneeling as usual at the sound of his name, acquiesced tearfully to 
the separation. 

"If we find them to be pirates or highwaymen, we'll return a once/' 
Ebenezer told the King. 

^ "The Emperor of the English will not harm you," Quassapelagh said, 
"nor need you fear for my sons, who are unknown to him. But speak not 
the name of the Anacostin King to any man unless you wish me dead, and 
do not return to this cave. Your kindness to Quassapelagh will not be for- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 309 ] 

gotten." He spoke in the native tongue to one of the boys, who fetched 
him a small leather packet from the rear of the cave. 

" Tis a map of the Seven Cities he means to show us!" Bertrand whis- 
pered. 

"Take these/' said the King, and gave to each of the men a small amulet, 
carved, it appeared, from the vertebra of a relatively large fish a hollow, 
watery-white cylinder of bone perhaps three quarters of an inch in width 
and half that in diameter, with small projections where the dorsal and 
ventral ribs had been cut off and the near-translucence characteristic of the 
bones of fish. Bertrand's face fell. "It seems a small repayment for my 
life," Quassapelagh said sternly, "but it was for one of these that Warren 
turned me free." 

"This Warren is a fool," grumbled Bertrand. 

The King ignored him. "Wear it as a ring upon your finger," he told 
Ebenezer. "One day when beath is very close, this ring may turn him 
away." 

Ebenezer too was somewhat disappointed by the present, the rude carv- 
ings of which could not even be called decorative, but he accepted it politely 
and, since the outside diameter was too large for comfort, strung it upon 
a thin rawhide thong and wore it around his neck, under his shirt. Bertrand, 
on the other hand, stuffed his ungraciously into a pocket of his trousers. 
Then,, it being already late in the afternoon and the beach in shadow 
from the cliffs, they bade warm good-byes to the big Negro and Quassape- 
lagh and, with the savage boys as guides ascended to the forest and struck 
out more or less northwestward, moving slowly because of their bare feet. 

"Thou'rt not o'erjoyed at traveling to our countrymen," Ebenezer ob- 
served to Bertrand. 

"I'm not o'erjoyed at walking into a pirates' nest, when we could as 
lightly search for golden towns," the valet admitted. "Nor did we drive 
a happy bargain with that salvage king, to trade Drakepecker for a pair 
of fishbones." 

" 'Twas not a trade, nor yet a gift/' the poet said. "If he was obliged 
to us for his life, then saving ours discharged his obligation." 

But Bertrand was not so easily mollified. 

" 'Sbody, sir, I mean nor selfishness nor blasphemy, but 'tis precious rare 
a valet 'gets to be a god! Yet I'd scarce commenced to take the measure 
of the office, as't were, and get the hang oft, ere ye trade off my parishioner 
for a pitiful pair of fishbones! I wanted but another day or two to god it 
about, don't ye know, ere we turned old Drakepecker loose." 



[ J1O ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Not I," the Laureate said. "'Tis a post I feel well quit of. We found 
him cast up helpless from the sea and left him helpful in a cave; he hath 
been slave to a god and now is servant to a king. Whither he goes thence 
is his own affair. We twain did well to start him on his journey is that 
not godding it enough? Besides which/' he concluded, "you had not the 
chore of keeping him occupied, as I did, or you'd not complain; I was 
pleased to find that work to set him to. If we reach our golden cities, my 
own shall be republican, not theocratic, nor have I any wish to be its ruler. 
That much Drakepecker hath taught me." 

Bertrand smiled. "Ye've been not long a master, thus to speak, sir! D'ye 
think I mean to fill my head with dogmas and decretals, once I'm in my 
temple? That is the work of the lesser fry priests and clerks and all that 
ilk. A god doth naught but sit and sniff the incense, count his money, 
and take his pick o' the wenches." 

"Methinks your reign in Heaven shan't be long," Ebenezer observed. 

"Nor doth it need be," said his valet. 

After a while the woods thinned out, and to westward, through the trees, 
they saw a cleared field of considerable size in which grew orderly green 
rows of an unfamiliar broad-leaved plant. Ebenezer's heart leaped at the 
sight 

"Look yonder, Bertrand! That is no salvage crop!" He laid hold of one 
of their guides and pointed to the field. "What do you call that?" he 
demanded loudly, as if to achieve communication by volume. "What is 
the name of that? Did the English plant that field?" 

The boy caught up the word happily and nodded. "English. English." 
Then he launched into some further observation, in the course of which 
Ebenezer heard the word tobacco. 

"Tobacco?" he inquired. "That is tobacco?" 

"How can that be?" Bertrand wondered, 

"Tis not so strange, after all," said tte Laureate. "Captain Pound was 
wont to sail the latitude of the Azores, that ran to the Virginia Capes, 
and any isle along that parallel would have Virginia's climate, would it 
not?" 

Bertrand then demanded to know why a band of pirates would waste 
their time on agriculture. 

"We have no proof they're pirates," Ebenezer reminded him. They could 
as well be sot-weed smugglers, of which Henry Burlingame declares there 
are a great number, or simply honest planters. Tis a thing to hope for 
is'tnot?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 31 1 ] 

A contrary sentiment showed in Bertrand's face, but before he had a 
chance to voice it the two boys motioned them to silence. The four moved 
stealthily through a final grove of trees to where the forest ended at a 
riverbank on the north and a roadway paved with bare logs on the west. 
Sounds of activity came to them from a large log structure like a store- 
house, obviously the work of white men, that ran from the roadside back 
into the trees; at their guide's direction they crept up to the rear wall,, from 
which point of vantage, their hearts in their mouths, they could safely peer 
down the road toward the river. 

"I'God!" Ebenezer whispered. The noise they had heard, a rumbling 
and chanting, was made by several teams of three Negroes each, who, bare- 
footed and naked to the waist, were rolling enormous wooden hogsheads 
over the road down to a landing at the river's edge and singing as they 
worked. On a pier that ran out from the shore was a group of bareheaded, 
shoeless men dressed in bleached and tattered Scotch cloth, who despite 
their sunburnt faces and generally uncouth appearance was plainly of 
European and not barbaric' origin; they were engaged in nothing more 
strenuous than leaning against the pilings, smoking pipes, passing round 
a crockery jug (after each drink from which they wiped their mouths on 
the tops of their hairy forearms), and watching the Negroes wrestle their 
burdens into a pair of lighters moored alongside. At sight of them Ebenezer 
rejoiced, but more marvelous stillso marvelous that the beholding of it 
brought tears to his eyes out in mid-channel of the broad river, which 
must have been nearly two miles wide at that point, a stately, high-pooped, 
three-masted vessel rode at anchor, loading cargo from the lighters, and 
from her maintop hung folds of red, white, and blue that could be no 
other banner but the King's colors. 

"These are no brigands, but honest English planters!" Ebenezer laughed. 
" Tis some island of the Indies we have hit on!" And for all the others 
warned him to be silent, he cried out for joy, burst out onto the roadway, 
and ran whooping and hallooing to the wharf. The young savages fled into 
the forest; Bertrand, filled with gloom and consternation, lingered by the 
warehouse wall to watch. 

"Countrymen! Countrymen!" Ebenezer called. The Negroes stopped 
their song and left their labors to see him go by, and the white men too 
turned round in surprise at the outcry. It was indeed a most uncommon 
spectacle: even thinner than usual from the rigors of his months on ship- 
board, Ebenezer bounded down the log road like a shaggy stork. His feet 
were bare and blistered, his shirt and breeches shred to rags; bald and beard- 



[ 312 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOIt 

less at the time of his abduction from the Poseidon, he had let his hair 
grow wild from scalp and chin alike, so that now, though still of no great 
length, it was entirely matted and ungroomed. Add to this, he was more 
sunburnt than the planters and at least as dirty, the very picture of a casta- 
way, and his haste was made the more grotesque by the way he clutched 
both arms across his shirt front, wherein he carried still the curling pages 
of the Journal. 

"Countrymen!" he cried again upon reaching the landing. "Say some- 
thing quickly,, that I may hear what tongue you speak!" 

The men exchanged glances; some shifted their positions, and others 
sucked uneasily on their pipes. 

"He is a madman/' one suggested, and before he could retreat found 
himself embraced. 

"Thou'rt English! Dear God, thou'rt English!" 

"Back off, there!" 

Ebenezer pointed jubilantly seawards. "Where is that vessel bound, sir, 
as thou'rt a Christian Englishman?*' 

"For Portsmouth, with the fleet " 

"Praise Heav'n!" He leaped and clapped his hands and called back to 
the warehouse, "Bertrand! Bertrandl They're honest English gentlemen all! 
Hither, Bertrand! And prithee, wondrous Englishman," he said, and laid 
hold of another planter who, owing to the water at his back, could not 
escape, "what isle is this I have been washed to? Is't Barbados, or the far 
Antilles?" 

"Thy brains are pickled with rum/' growled the planter, shaking free. 

'The Bermoothes, then!" Ebenezer cried. He fell to his knees and 
clutched the fellow's trouser legs. "Tell me 'tis Corvo, or some isle I have 
not heard of!" 

/" TiS n0t ^ ne P r fte other > nor an ? isle else >" ^ Pinter said. 
"'Tis but poor shitten Maryland, damn your eyes," 



18: THE LAUREATE PAYS HIS FARE TO CROSS A RIVER 



"MARYLAND!" EBENEZER RELEASED ms VICTIM'S TROUSERS AND LOOKED 
back toward the woods he'd emerged from, at the fields of green tobacco 
and the Negroes grinning broadly beside their hogsheads. His face lit up. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 313 ] 

Still kneeling, as though transfixed, he laid his right hand over his heart 
and raised his left to the gently rolling hills, behind which the sun was 
just descending. "Smile, ye gracious hills and sunlit trees!" he commanded. 
"Thine own sweet singer, thy Laureate, is come to noise thy glory!" 

This was a disembarkation-piece he had composed aboard the Poseidon 
some months before, deeming it fit that as Laureate of Maryland he 
should salute his bailiwick poetically upon first setting foot on it, and in- 
tending also to leave no question among his new compatriots that he was 
poet to the bone. He was therefore not a little piqued to see his initial 
public declamation received with great hilarity by his audience, who guf- 
fawed and snorted, smacked their thighs and held their sides, wet their 
noses and elbowed their neighbors, and pointed horny fingers at Ebenezer, 
and broke wind in their uncouth breeches. 

The Laureate let go his pose, rose to his feet, arched his great blond 
eyebrows, pursed his lips, and said, "I'll cast you no more pearls,, my friends. 
Have a care, or I'll see thy masters birch you one and all." He turned 
his back on them and hurried to the foot of the landing, where Bertrand 
stood uncomfortably under the scrutiny of several delighted Negroes. 

"Put by your dream of seven cities, Bertrand: you stand upon the blessed 
soil of Maryland!" 

"I heard as much," the valet said sourly. 

"Is't not a paradise? Look yonder, how the sunset fires those trees!" 

"Yet your fellow Marylanders would win no place at Court, I think." 

"Nay, who shall blame them for their disrespect?" Ebenezer looked down 
at his own garb and Bertrand's, and laughed. "What man could see a 
Laureate Poet here? Besides, they're only simple servants." 

" Tis an idle master lets 'ern drink their afternoons, then," Bertrand 
said skeptically. "I cannot blame Quassapelagh " 

"La!" the poet warned. "Speak not his name!" 

"I merely meant, I see his point of view." 

"Only think!" Ebenezer marveled. "He was king of the salvage Indians 

of Maryland! And Drakepecker " He looked with awe on the muscular 

Negroes and frowned. 

Bertrand followed the thought, and his eyes welled up with tears. "How 
could that princely fellow be a slave? Plague take your Maryland!" 

"We must not judge o'erhastily," Ebenezer said, but he stroked his beard 
reflectively. 

All through this colloquy the idle Englishmen had wheezed and snick- 
ered in the background. One of their number a wiry, wrinkled old repro- 



[ 314 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

bate with clipped ears and a branded palm now scraped and bowed his 
way up to them and said with exaggerated accent, "Your Grace must 
pardon our rudeness. We're at your service, m'lord." 

"Be't so," Ebenezer said at once, and giving Bertiand a knowing look 
he stepped out on the pier to address the group. "Know, my good men, 
that rude and tattered though I appear, I am Ebenezer Cooke, appointed 
by the Lord Proprietary to the office of Poet and Laureate of the Province 
of Maryland; I and my man have suffered imprisonment at the hands of 
pirates and narrowly escaped a watery grave. I shall not this time report 
your conduct to your masters, but do henceforth show more respect, if not 
for me, at least for Poetry!" 

This speech they greeted with applause and raucous cheers, which, taking 
them as a sign of gratitude for his leniency, elicited from the Laureate a 
benign smile. 

"Now," he said, "I know not where in Maryland I stand, but I must go 
at once to Maiden, my plantation on Choptank River. I shall require both 
transportation and direction, for I know naught of the Province. You, my 
man," he went on, addressing the old man with the branded palm who 
had spoken previously. "Will you lead me thither? I'm certain your master 
shan't object, when he learns the office of your passenger." 

"Aye, now, that's certain!" the fellow answered, with a glance at his 
companions. "But say, now, Master Poet, how will ye pay me for my labor? 
For we must paddle o'er this river here, and there's nothing floats like 
gold." 

Ebenezer hid his discomfort behind an even haughtier mien. "As't hap- 
pens, my man, what gold I have is not upon my person. In any case, I 
daresay your master would forbid you to take money in such a worthy 
service." 

"HI take my chances there," the old man said. "If ye cannot pay me, 
ye'll cross as best ye can. Is't possible so great a man hath not a ring or 
other kind of valuable?" 

"Ye may have mine/' growled Bertrand. "Tis a bona fide salvage relic, 
that I hear is worth a fortune." He reached into his breeches pocket. "Hi, 
there, Fve lost it through a hole " 

"Out on't!" Ebenezer cried, losing patience with the Marylander. "Not 
for nothing am I Laureate of this Province! Ferry me across, fellow, and 
you shall be rewarded with the finest gold e'er mined: the pure coin of 
poetry!" 

The old man cocked his head as though impressed. "Coin o' poetry, is 
it? Ye mean ye'll say me a verse for paddling across the river?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 315 ] 

"Recite?" Ebenezer scoffed. "Nay, man, I shan't recite; I shall compose! 
I shall extemporize! Your gold will not be soiled from many hands but 
be struck gleaming from the mint before your eyes!" 

The man scratched one clipped ear. "Well, I don't know. I ne'er heard 
tell of business done like that." 

"Tut," Ebenezer reassured him. " Tis done from day to day in Europe, 
and for weightier matters than a pitiful ferry ride. Doth not Cervantes tell 
us of a poet in Spain that hired himself a harlot for three hundred sonnets 
on the theme of Pyramus and Thisbe?" 

"Ye do not tell me!" marveled the ferryman. "Three hundred sonnets! 
And what, pray, might a sonnet be?" 

Ebenezer smiled at the fellow's ignorance. " 'Tis a verse-form." 

"A verse-form, now!" 

"Aye. We poets do not merely make poems; we make certain sorts of 
poems. Just as in coins you have farthings and pence and shillings and 
crowns, in verse you have quatrains and sonnets and villanelles and ron- 
delays." 

"Aha!" said the ferryman. "And this sonnet, then, is like a shilling? Or 
a half crown? For I shall ask a crown to paddle ye o'er this river." 

"A crown!" the poet cried. 

"No less, Your Excellencythe currents and tides, ye know, this time 
of year." 

Ebenezer looked skeptically at the placid river. 

"He is a rogue and very Jew," Bertrand said. 

"Ah well, no matter,, Bertrand." Ebenezer winked at his valet and turned 
again to the Marylander. "But see here, my man, you must know a sonnet's 
worth a half pound sterling on the current London market." 

"Spare me the last line oft then," said the ferryman, "for I shan't give 
change." 

"Done." To the bystanders, who had watched the bargaining with amuse- 
ment, he said, "Witness that this fellow hath agreed, on consideration of 
one sonnet, not including the final line, to ferry Ebenezer Cooke, Poet and 

Laureate of Maryland, and his man across the I say, what do you call 

this river?" 

"The Choptank/' Ebenezer's boatman answered quickly. 

"You don't say! Then Maiden must be near at hand!" 

"Aye," the old man vowed. " Tis just through yonder woods. Ye can 
walk there lightly once ye cross this river." 

"Excellent! Done, then?" 



[ 316 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Done, Your Highness, done!' ' He held up an unclean finger. "But I 
shall want my payment in advance." , 

"Ah, come now!" Ebenezer protested. 

"What doth it matter?" whispered Bertrand. 

"What warrant have I thou'rt a poet at all?" the man insisted. "Pay me 
now, or no feny ride." 

Ebenezer sighed. "So be't." And to the group: "A silence, now, an it 
please you." 

Then, pressing a finger to his temple and squinting both his eyes, he 
struck an attitude of composition, and after a moment declaimed: 

"Hence, loathed Melancholy, 

Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born 
In Stygian cave forlorn 

'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy! 
Find out some uncouth cell, 

Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous wings, 
And the night-Raven sings; 

There, under Ebon shades, and low-browed Rocks, 
As ragged as thy Locks, 

In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell" 

There was some moments' silence. 

"Well, come, my man!" the poet urged. "You have your fare!" 

"What? Is that a sonnet?" 

'On my honor," Ebenezer assured him. "Minus the final line, to be 

. 



sure 



"To be sure, to be sure." The boatman tugged at his mutilated ear. 
"So that is my half-pound sonnet! A great ugly one 'twas, at that, with 
all those shrieks and hollowings in't." 

"What matter? Would you lift your nose at a gold piece if the King had 
an ugly head? A sonnet's a sonnet." 

"Aye, aye, 'tis the truth," sighed the ferryman, and shook his head as 
though outwitted. "Very well, then; yonder's my canoe." 

"Let's be off," said the poet, and took his valet's arm triumphantly. 

But when he saw the vessel they were to cross in, he came near to letting 
his ferryman keep the sonnet gratis. "Had I guessed this swine trough was 
to be our boat, I'd have kept the dark Gimmerian desert in rty purse " 

"Complain no more," the boatman answered. "Had I but known whrt 
a grubby pittance was your sonnet, ye'd have swum for all o' me." 

Thus understanding each other, ferryman and passengers climbed cau- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ Jiy ] 

tiously aboard the dugout canoe and proceeded out onto the river, which 
lay as smooth as any looking glass. When well past mid-channel they found 
the surface still unrippled, the passengers began to suspect that the difficulty 
of the crossing had been exaggerated. 

"I say," asked Bertrand from the bow, "where are those wicked tides and 
currents, that made this trip so dear?" 

"Nowhere save in my fancy," said the ferryman with a grin. "Since ye 
were paying your passage with a poem, I had as well demand a big one- 
it cost ye no more." 

"Oho!" cried Ebenezer. "So you deceived me! Well, think not thou'rt 
aught the richer for't, my fellow, for the sonnet was not mine: I had it 
from one whose talent equals my own " 

But the boatman was not a whit put out by this disclosure. "Last year's 
gold is as good as this year's," he declared, "and one man's as good as 
another's. Though ye did play false upon your pledge, I'm nowise poorer 
for't. A ha' pound's a ha' pound, and a sonnet's a sonnet," Just then the 
canoe touched the opposite shore of the river. "Here ye be, Master Poet, 
and the joke's on you." 

"Blackguard!" grumbled Bertrand. 

Ebenezer smiled. "As you will, sir; as you will." He stepped ashore with 
Bertrand and waited until the ferryman pushed back onto the river; then 
he laughed and called to him: "Yet the truth is, Master Numskull, you 
sit fleeced from nape to shank! Not only is your sonnet not my doing; 
'tis not even a sonnet! Good day, sir!" He made ready to flee through the 
woods to Maiden should the ferryman pursue them, but that gentleman 
merely clucked his tongue, between strokes of his paddle. 

"No matter, Master Madman," he called back. " Tis not the Choptank 
River, either. Good night, sir!" 



19: THE LAUREATE ATTENDS A SWINE-MAIDEN'S 
TALE 



UPON REALIZING THAT THE FERRYMAN HAD MAROONED HIM IN HE KNEW 

not what wild woods, Ebenezer set up a considerable hallooing and crying, 
hoping thereby to attract someone from the opposite shore to rescue him; 
but the men in Scotch cloth were evidently in on the prank, for they 



[ 318 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

turned away and left the hapless pair to their own devices. Already the 
light was failing: at length he left off his calling and surveyed the woods 
around them, which grew more shadowy by the minute. 

"Only think on't!" he said. "Twas Maryland all along!" 

Bertrand kicked disconsolately at a tree stump. "More's the pity, says I. 
Your Maryland hath not even civil citizens/ 7 

"Ah, friend, your heart was set on a golden city, and Maryland hath 
none. But Gold is where you find it, is't not? What treasure is more valuable 
than this, to reach unscathed our journey's end?" 

"I would Fd stayed with Drakepecker on the beach/' the valet said. 
"What good hath come since we discovered where we are? Who knows 
what beasts we'll find in yonder shadows? Or salvages, that rightly hate 
an English face?" 

"And yet, 'tis Maryland!" Ebenezer sighed happily. "Who knows but 
what my father, and his father, have crossed this selfsame river and seen 
those selfsame trees? Think on't, man: we are not far from Maiden!" 

"And is that such a joyous thought, sir,, when for aught we know 'tis 
no more your estate?" 

Ebenezer's face fell. "I'faith, I had forgot your wager!" At thought of 
it he joined his valet's gloom and sat at the foot of a nearby birch. "We 
dare not try these woods tonight, at any rate. Build up a fire, and we'll 
find our way at dawn." 

"Twill draw the Indians, will it not?" Bertrand asked. 

"It might," the poet said glumly. "On the other hand, 'twill keep away 
the beasts. Do as you please." 

Indeed, even as Bertrand commenced striking on the flint from his tin- 
derbox in which also he had brought from the beach a small supply of 
dried sea-grass for tinder the two men heard the grunt of an animal 
somewhere among the trees not many yards upstream. 

"Hark!" Goose flesh pimpled the Laureate's arms, and he jumped to 
his feet. "Make haste there with the fire!" 

The grunt sounded again, accompanied by a rustling of leaves; a moment 
later another answered from farther away, and then another and another,, 
until the wood was filled with the sound of beasts, advancing in their 
direction. While Bertrand struck furiously at the flint, Ebenezer called 
once more across the river for help, but there was no one to hear. 

"A spark! I have a spark!" cried Bertrand, and cupped the tinder in his 
hands to blow up a flame. "Make ready the kindling wood!" ' 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 319 ] 

" 'Sheart, we've not got any!" The sound was almost upon them now. 
"Run for the river!" 

Bertrand dropped the seaweed, and they raced headlong into the shal- 
lows; nor had they got knee-deep before they heard the animals burst out 
of the woods behind them and squeal and snuffle on the muddy shore. 

"You there!" cried a woman's voice. "Are ye mad or merely drunken?" 

"Marry!" said Bertrand. " Tis a woman!" 

They turned round in surprise and in the last light saw standing on the 
mud bank a disheveled woman of uncertain age, dressed, like the men on 
the landing, in bleached and tattered Scotch cloth and carrying a stick 
with which she drove a number of swine. These latter grumped and rooted 
along the shore, pausing often to regard the two men balefully. 

"Dear Heav'n, the jest's on us!" the poet called back, and did his best 
to laugh. "My man and I are strangers to the Province, and were left 
stranded here by some dolt for a prank!" 

"Come hither, then," the woman said. "These swine shan't eat ye." To 
reassure them she drove the nearest hog off with her stick, and the two 
men waded ^horewards. 

"I thank you for your kindness," Ebenezer said; "haply 'tis in your power 
to do me yet another, for I need a lodging for the night. My name is 
Ebenezer Cooke, Poet and Laureate of the Province of Maryland, and 
I nay, madam, fear not for your modesty!" The woman had gasped and 
turned away as they approached. "Our clothes are wet and ragged, but 
they cover us yet!" Ebenezer prattled on. "In sootk I'm not the picture 
of a laureate poet, I know well; 'tis owing to the many trials I've been 
through, the like of which you'd ne'er believe if I should tell you. Kidnaped 
by pirates and thrown overboard to die! But once I reach my manor on 
the Choptank i'God/" 

The woman had turned in his direction and raised her head. Her black 
hair showed no signs of soap or comb, nor had she plagued her skin over- 
much with scrubbing. But what caused Ebenezer to break off in mid- 
sentence was the fact that except for her slovenliness and the open sores 
that even in the shadow were conspicuous on her face and arms, the swine- 
maiden could have passed for the girl in the Cyprian's rigging; and but 
for a decade's difference in their apparent ages, she bore a certain resem- 
blance to the youthful whore Joan Toast. 

"Am I such a sight as that?" the woman asked harshly. 

"Nay, nay, forgive me!" Ebenezer begged. " 'Tis quite the contrary: you 
look in some ways like a girl I knew in London how long since!" 



[ 320 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Ye do not tell me! Had this wench my lovely clothes and fine com- 
plexion, and did ye show a nice concern for her maidenhead?" 

"Ah, prithee, speak less sourly!" the Laureate said. "If I said aught to hurt 
thee, I swear 'twas not intended!" 

The maid turned sullenly away. "My master's house lies just round yon- 
der point, a mile or two. Ye can bed there if yeVe a mind to." Without 
waiting for reply she smote the nearest hog upon its ham-butt with her 
stick to start it moving, and the procession grunted upstream toward the 
point. 

"She bears some likeness to Joan Toast," Ebenezer whispered to Ber- 
trand. 

"As doth a bat to a butterfly," the valet replied contemptuously, "that 
make their way through the world by the selfsame means." 

"Ah, now," the poet protested, and the memory of his adventure on the 
Cyprian made him dizzy; "she's but a swineherd and unclean, yet she 
hath a certain air . . ." 

" Tis that she's windward of us, if ye should ask me." 

But Ebenezer would not be discouraged; he caught up to the woman 
and asked her name. 

"Why, 'tis Susan Warren, sir," she said uncordially. "I suppose ye want 
to hire me for your whore?" 

"Dear Heavens, no! Twas but an idle pleasantry, I swear! D'you think 
a laureate poet plays with whores?" 

For answer, Susan Warren only sniffed. 

"Who is your master, then?" Ebenezer demanded, somewhat less gently. 
" 'Twill be surpassing pleasant to meet a proper gentleman, for I've met 
no Marylander yet who was not either a rogue or a simpleton. Yet Lord 
Baltimore, when he wrote out my commission, made much of the manners 
and good breeding in his Province and charged me to write of them." 

Instead of answering, the swine-maiden, to Ebenezer's considerable sur- 
prise, began to weep. 

"Why, what is this? Said I aught to affront you?" 

The procession halted, and Bertrand came up chuckling from behind. 
" Tis that the lady hath tender feelings, sir. 'Twas boorish of ye not to 
hire her services." 

"Enough!" the poet commanded, and said to Susan Warren, "'Tis not 
my wont to traffic in harlotry, ma'am; forgive me if I gave you to think 
otherwise." 

"'Tis none o' your doing, sir," the woman replied, and resumed her 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 321 ] 

pace along the path. "The truth is that my master's such a rascal, and uses 
me so ill, e'en to think on't brings the tears." 

"And how is that? Doth he beat you, then?" 

She shook her head and sniffed. "If 'twere but a birching now and again 
I'd not complain. The rod's but one among my grievances, nor yet a very 
great one." 

"He doth worse, then?" Ebenezer exclaimed. 

"Ffaith, he must be hard pressed for diversion," said the valet, and drew 
a stern look from his master. 

Susan Warren permitted herself another round of wails and tears, after 
which, heaving a sigh to Heaven and kicking in the bacon a pig that stopped 
before her to make water in the path, she poured out to the Laureate the 
whole tale of her tribulations, as follows: 

"I was bom Susan Smith," she said, "and my mother died a-bearing me, 
My father had a small shop in London, near Puddle Dock, where he 
coopered casks and barrels for the ships. One day when I was eighteen 
and pretty as ye please, I took a stroll down Blackfriars o'er to Ludgate, 
and was bowed to by a handsome wight that called me Miss Williams, 
and asked to walk along with me. Te may not do't,' I told him, 'nor is 
my name Miss Williams/ 'How's this?' he cried. "Thou'rt not Miss Eliza- 
beth Williams from Gracechurch Street?' 1 am not/ said I. 'Then pardon 
me/ said he, 'thou'rt like as twins/ 

" Twas clear to me the lad spoke truly, for he was a civil gentleman and 
blushed at his mistake, He said he was in love with this Miss Williams, but 
for all she said she loved him she'd have none o' him for her husband, and 
spoke of some great sin that damned her soul. Yet this Humphrey Warren 
(that was his name) declared he'd have her to wife with all the sins o' 
man upon her conscience. 

"I saw poor Humphrey often then by Ludgate, for Miss Williams grew 
less ardent day by day; he told me all his trials on her account, and said we 
looked so much alike, 'twas as if he spoke to her instead of me. For my part, 
I envied this Miss Williams not a little, and thought her a great fool to 
scorn so fine a gentleman. Dear Humphrey was not rich, but he held a 
decent post in the firm of a Captain Mitchell, that was Miss Williams' 
older half brother,, and had every other virtue that could please a woman's 
heart. 

"Then one day Humphrey came to Father's shop near Puddle Dock, 
weeping fit to die, and said Miss Williams had done herself to death with 



[ 522 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

poison! I took pity on the man, albeit at heart I had none for Miss Williams, 
and rejoiced when Humphrey came to see me every day. At length he said, 
'Dear Susan, thy likeness to Elizabeth is my curse and my salvation! I weep 
to see ye, thinking of her dead; yet I cannot think her gone, with her living 
image every day before me/ And I said, 'I could wish, sir, ye saw somewhat 
beyond that likeness/ 

"This gave him pause, and anon he went to Father, and we two were 
wed. Yet for all I strove to win my Humphrey's love, I saw 'twas but the 
image of Miss Williams he made love to. One night when he lay sleeping 
fast I kissed him, and in his sleep he said, 'God save ye, sweet Elizabeth!' 
Fool that I was, I woke him on the instant, and made him choose betwixt 
the two of us. 'Elizabeth is dead,' I said, 'and I'm alive. Do ye love me, 
love myself and not my likeness, else I shan't stay in this bed another 
moment!' 

"Ah, God! Had I been but ten years older, or one groatsworth wiser, I'd 
have held my tongue! What matter what he called me, so he loved me? 
Why, didn't he call me Honey and Sweetheart and a flock of names besides, 
as well as Susan? I cursed my speech the moment 'twas spoke, but the hurt 
was done. 'Dear Susan!' Humphrey cried. 'Why did ye that? Would God 
ye had not asked me to choose!' 

"All for naught then my begging and weeping; he'd not let me put by my 
words, but he must choose. And choose he did, though not a word he said 
oft; for next morn he was too ill to rise, and died not four days after. Thus 
was I widowed at nineteen years. . . . 

"My father had grave troubles of his own, for his trade was poor, and 
Humphrey's niggard funeral took his savings. He went into debt to pay for 
food and stock, and just when the lot was gone, and the creditors were 
hounding at our door, a man came in to order casks for's vessel, which he 
said was bound for Maryland at month's end. So pleased was Father to 
get the work, he bade me brew the man some tea. But at sight o' me the 
wight turned pale and wept, for all he was a burly bearded sailor! 

" What is't?' said I, that had been like to die of grief myself those many 
weeks. The captain begged forgiveness and said 'twas my likeness to his 
dear dead sister caused his tears. In short, we learned he was Captain 
William Mitchell of Gracechurch Street, the same that was half brother to 
Elizabeth and my Humphrey's late employer. Had I but known then what 
vipers hid behind that kindly face, I had turned him out and bolted fast 
the door! But instead we wept together: I for my Humphrey, Captain 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 3 2 3 ] 

Mitchell for his sister, and father for the miseries of this life, wherein we 
lose the ones we love and cannot even mourn them fitly, for grubbing to 
feed the living." 

Here Susan had to interrupt her narrative for some moments to give 
expression to ,her grief. Tears ran as well down Ebenezer's face, and even 
Bertrand was no longer hostile, but sighed in sympathy. 

"Captain Mitchell then came oft to visit us/' she went on, "and father 
and I being innocent of the World's wickedness, we took him to our hearts. 
We had no secret he was not made privy to, though he gave us to know 
little of himself. Yet we guessed that he was rich, for he spoke of carrying 
twenty servants to Maryland, whither he sailed to take some fine post in 
the government. 

"Then when the coopering was done and all the casks hauled over to 
the dock, Captain Mitchell made my father a strange proposal: he would 
pay off Father's debts and leave him unencumbered for good and all, if I 
would sail to Maryland with Mrs. Mitchell and himself. He would treat me 
as his own dear sister, he declared; nay, more 'twas just that likeness had 
resolved him, and he meant to call me Elizabeth Williams. I was to be a 
sister to him, and companion to his ailing wife . . . 

"My father wept and thanked him for his kindness, but said he could 
not live if I were gone, whereupon Captain Mitchell proposed at once that 
he sell the shop lock, stock, and barrels and start a new life in America. 
Naught would do then but we fetch our books and ledgers, almost a-swoon 
with joy and gratitude, and he paid our creditors in cash. 'Surely there's 
some condition to this kindness!' Father cried, and Captain Mitchell said, 
'No more than what I stated: Miss Warren is now my sister/ 

"Thus was the business done, with my consent. That night, when things 
were calm again, I felt odd at being Elizabeth Williams, that I had envied 
and despised, and wondered if I'd spoken in too great haste. Yet 'twas a 
kind of pleasure too, inasmuch as Humphrey had loved Elizabeth all in 
vain and now would have his love returned tenfold! 

"On shipboard I was placed in Mrs. Mitchell's room, while Father was 
placed with Captain Mitchell's servants in the 'tween decks. Mrs. Mitchell 
was bedridden with some strange malady, but she was sweet to me. She 
called me Elizabeth, and bade me do whatever her husband asked, because 
he was a great good man that she could not live without. Two times a 
day I gave her medicine in little phials that Captain Mitchell took from a 
wooden qhest: if I was late 'twould drive her almost mad, but once she had 



[ 224] THE Sdt-WEED FACTOR 

her phial, she'd off to sleep at once. Captain Mitchell had a great many of 
these phials, and one morning he bade me take one lest I get seasick. 

" Thankee,' said I, 'but we're eight days out and I've not been seasick 
yet/ Captain Mitchell then came near and put his arm about my waist, 
right before Mrs. Mitchell's eyes, and said, 'Sister, ye must do as your 
brother says.' And Mrs. Mitchell cried, 'Aye, aye, Elizabeth, do as your 
brother says!' 

"He gave a phial to me then, and to pacify them both I did as he bade 
me, and chewed the brown gum inside. Ah Christ, that the first bitter taste 
had killed me! Twas no medicine I took at all, but itself a malady worse 
than death: 'twas opium I ate, sirs, all innocently that day!" 

'"Sheart!" cried Bertiand. 

'The wretch!" cried Ebenezer. 

44 Twas opium kept Mrs. Mitchell to her bed and drove her mad when 
'twas lacking! Twas opium led to my downfall, and my father's, and 
brought me to this state ye see: a filthy trollop driving swine! God curse 
the hand that raised the poppy that made the opium I ate that day! Yet I 
thought 'twas simple medicine, belike a soporific, and bitter as it was, I ate 
it all. Straightway I drowsed upon my feet, and the room changed sizes; 
I was on the bed with Mrs. Mitchell, that grasped me by the hand, and the 
Captain leaning o'er the twain of us. His head had got huge; his eyes were 
afire. 'Sister Elizabeth! Sister Elizabeth!' he said. . . . 

"In my dream I rose up high o'er the ship, hand in hand with Mrs. 
Mitchell The sky was blue as sapphire, and the sea beneath us looked like 
fine black crepe. The ship was a wee thing, clear and bright, and straight 
on the horizon was the sun. Then the sun was the eye of a man, and Mrs. 
Mitchell said, Tookee yonder, Elizabeth: that man is Christ Almighty, 
and ye must do what he says, as thou'rt a proper Catholic girl.' We went 
up near to Christ's great eye, and when He looked to us we stood naked 
for his judgment. 

"'Sister Elizabeth/ he said to me, 'I shall soon choose ye for a mighty 
work. I mean to get a child on ye, as my Father did on Mary!' I saw myself 
next in the habit of a nun, and Mrs. Mitchell called me Sister Elizabeth, 
the bride o' Christ. Then Christ's voice came like a great warm wind be- 
hind me, calling, 'Sister! Sister! Sister!' and while that Mrs. Mitchell held 
me, I was swived. 

" Twas all clear when I woke, for the face o' Jesus was Captain Mitchell's 
face: I saw why Elizabeth had turned in shame from Humphrey and killed 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR t 3 2 5 I 

herself with poison; I saw why Captain Mitchell called me his sister, in his 
awful wickedness, and why Mrs. Mitchell had to help him in his sin. From 
that day I was lost, and Captain Mitchell hid no longer his real nature. 
Again and again they forced the drug upon me, till I was dreaming 
half the day of Christ my lover. The craving got such hold on me, I'd have 
killed any man to get my phial. Five pounds apiece he set his fee, till I had 
borrowed from my father all the money Captain Mitchell had given him, 
and the poor man went to Maryland a pauper. After that there was naught 
for't but to sell my services for the future, a month of bondage for every 
phial: I signed a blank indenture-bond for Captain Mitchell to count the 
months on, and knew I was his slave and whore for life. 

"All through this time I'd not seen father once, nor did I wish to. 
Captain Mitchell told him I was ill and that the money was for medicine. 
When all was gone the poor man near lost his mind; he begged for more 
money, but Captain Mitchell bade him indent himself to the captain of 
the ship, who then would sell the indenture-bond in port. My father sold 
himself at first for two years, then for four, and all the money went to 
Captain Mitchell for my medicine, 

"One day near the end o' the passage Captain Mitchell gave his wife 
two phials instead of one, and two more after that, until she died before 
my eyes. Inasmuch as we had no physician, and everyone knew of the lady's 
illness, she was buried at sea and no questions asked. When we raised St. 
Mary's City, Father's bond was sold to a Mr. Spurdance on the Eastern 
Shore, and 'tis the last I've seen o' him these five years. Captain Mitchell 
moved into a fine large house in St. Mary's, and no longer did I pose as 
Elizabeth Williams (save in bed), but was Susan Warren, his indentured 
servant. 

"I was wont to say to myself 'St. Mary's City, St. Mary's City,' and in my 
opium dreams it was St. Susan's City, that I ruled over, and Christ came 
down and swived me night by night. One morning Mrs. Sissly, the neighbor 
woman, said, 'Miss Warren, thou'rt with child/ and I said, 'Mrs. Sissly, if I 
am with child 'twas inspired by no man, but by the Holy Ghost.' But Mrs. 
Sissly thought 'twas some manservant of the town I'd lain with, and told 
the tale to Captain Mitchell. He fell into a rage on hearing the news, for 
all he was the father; he told Martha Webb, the cook, to boil me an egg 
next morning, and he put a horrid physic in't, and made me eat it all. Then 
he put a towel round his neck and told Mrs. Webb he had physicked him- 
self, and not to allow any visitors whilst he was a-purging. 'Twas a terrible 



[ 326 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

strong physic, that had me three days purging strongly on the close-stool. 
It made me ill besides, and scurvied all my body; I broke out in boils and 
blains, and lost the hair off head and privates. Then the babe in my womb 
was murthered dead by't, and I knew wherefore he'd given it me to 

take 

" What think ye now? 7 he said. 'Will ye try that trick again?' And I said, 
That child was holy, sir; 'twas fathered on me by Jesus in your person/ 
And 'Jesus Christ indeed!' said he. 'There is no such person, Sister, nor 
any Holy Ghost!' And he said he was astonished that the world had been 
deluded these many years by a man and a pigeon. 

"Now these blasphemies were heard by Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Sissly, that 
ofttimes listened outside our doors, and being both gocxj Christian women 
they took the tale to the sheriff. Captain Mitchell was summoned to the 
next grand jury and charged with fraud, murther, adultery, fornication, 
blasphemy, and murtherous intent. I did rejoice withal, despite he had the 
opium and my life would end with his. 

"But, alas, I recked without the man's position, and the evil o' Maryland's 
courts: Captain Mitchell was fined a sniveling five thousand pounds o' sot- 
weed, whereof one third was remitted by the Governor, while I that God 
knows had endured enough-I was sentenced to thirty-nine lashes on my 
suffering naked back, by the courthouse door, for leading a lewd course o 9 
life! They also took my master's post away not for his wickedness, but for 
his blasphemies and freed me from my indenture. But little good that 
did me, that for my next phial must indent myself again, and take another 
bastinado at his hands! 

"We moved then to this place in Calvert County, and my master plants 
tobacco. I am more wretched than e'er before, for since the physic robbed 
my beauty he'll not have me now but once in a passing while. He courts a 
new girl, only lately come from London, a wee child of a thing that hath 
the face of Elizabeth Williams and myself, and he treats her like a queen 
the while I'm set to drive the swine. Yet he gives me still my phials, and I 
well know why: 'twill not be long ere I hold her for him, while he puts 
the first opium in her mouth and calls her Sister Elizabeth. I shall get 
no more phials after that: I will fling myself to drown in yon Patuxent and 

be well out oft, and he will have his new young sister for good and all 

"God curse that man and this province!" the woman cried finally, leaning 
upon her staff to weep. "Would Christ I had died while yet a maiden girl, 
in my father's little coopery on the Thames!" 



20: THE LAUREATE ATTENDS THE SWINE-MAIDEN 
HERSELF 



EBENEZER AND BERTRANB LISTENED DUMB STRUCK TO THIS TALE, WHICH 

done the poet cried, "Out on't, but your master is the Devil himself! 
Charles, Charles! Where is the majesty of Maryland's law, when a woman 
is used so ill? I would to Heav'n my baggage were here and not God alone 
knows where; then would I fetch up my sword, and this Captain Mitchell 
speak nimbly!" 

"Ah nay, ye dare not/' Susan warned. "Let fall but a word of what I've 
said, and we're all of us dead men," 

"In that event," the Laureate said after some reflection, "he shall not 
have the honor of my visit. Aye, the boor shall learn how decent folk shun 
such beasts as he!" 

"B'm'faith!" commented Bertrand. "Tis a fearsome punishment you 
exact, sir!" 

Susan straightway recommenced her weeping. " Tis done, then!" she 
declared. "Tis o'er and done!" 

"How's that?" the poet inquired. "What's done?" 

"I," the maid replied, "for when I saw your face and heard o' your won- 
drous office, my poor brain hatched a plan. But what I hatched, ye've 
scotched, and 'tis done for Susan Warren." 

"A plan, you say?" 

The swine-girl nodded. "To make my escape and be rid o' that antichrist 
my master," 

"Pray lay it open, then, that we might judge it." 

"Know, then," she said, "that some time past, when Captain Mitchell 
found this newest prey, I guessed my phials would soon become a burthen 
to him and so, while feigning to eat the whole of the contents, in fact I laid 
by a little every time and saved it in my snuffbox Of each phial I ate a 
grain less and saved a grain more, till now I've near a month's worth in 
reserve; and I have farther hid my one good dress, that Mrs. Sissly gave me 
to be flogged in. Now I have it privily that Father's indenture is run out, 
and Mr. Spurdance his master hath given him twenty acres of his own to 
till on the Eastern Shore. If I can flee from this evil house I shall make my 



[ 328 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

way to my father's farm and hide myself till my cure is done; then he and I 
shall seek passage back to London/' 

"Brave plans!" said Bertraud, whose sympathy the swine-maid's plight 
had won entirely. "What can we do to aid ye?" 

"Ah, sir!" wept Susan, still addressing Ebenezer. "These brave plans 
were fond indeed, should I simply strike out on the road. The law goes 
hard on fleeing servants, and my back thirsts not for farther stripes. What I 
require to fly this sink o' Hell fore'er is but a sum of silver, that ye would 
not miss; I have found a boatman that will risk flogging to sail me o'er the 
Bay, but he demands his fare. Two pounds, my lord!" she cried, and greatly 
disconcerted the Laureate by falling to her knees before him and embracing 
his legs. "Two pounds will send me safe to my dear father! Oh, sir, refuse 
me not! Think of someone ye love in these sad straits thy sister, or some 
sweetheart!" 

" Tore God, I would 'twere in my power to help you," Ebenezer said, 
*1>ut I am penniless. I've but this trifling ring, here, made of bone " 

He drew it ruefully from his shirt to show his poverty, but at sight of it 
'Susan jumped up and cried, "God save us! Whence came that ring?" 

"I may not tell/' the poet replied. "Why doth the sight of it alarm you?" 

"No matter," said Susan, and clutched at the fishbone ring that hung 
still on its thong about the poet's neck. "It hath a certain value in the 
market, and methinks the boatman will accept it for his fare." 

But Ebenezer hesitated. " Twas a kind of gift," he said. "I am loath to 
part with't . . ." 

"Christ! Christ!" Susan wailed. "Ye will refuse me! Look ye hither, now 
that fiend abuses me! Will ye send me back for more?" 

She raised her tattered skirt above her knees and displayed two legs which, 
wealed and welted though they were, had not been spoiled by the physic 
that had uglified the rest of her. Indeed, they were quite fetching legs, the 
first Ebenezer had seen since that day aboard the Cyprian. 

"Ah, well, thou'rt still a woman," Bertrand said appreciatively, "and a 
good wench sits upon her own best argument." 

This observation brought fresh tears from Susan and a scathing look 
from Ebenezer. 

"I have seen harlotiy enough," she declared, "and the boatman is a man 
too old to care." 

^Indeed?" the valet smiled. "But my master and I are not." 
"Hold thy tongue!" the poet commanded. Susan came up to him, and 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 329 ] 

more than ever he was moved by her strange story and her resemblance to 
Joan Toast. 

"Ye'd not see me beat again now, would ye, sir?" They were in sight of a 
house by this time, whose lamplit windows shone across the tobacco-fields. 
"Yonder there is Captain Mitchell's house; he'll take you in right gladly as 
his guest, but me he will whip privily 'till he wearies of the sport." 

Ebenezer had some difficulty with his voice. " Twere in sooth a pity," 
he croaked. 

"I shan't allow it," the girl said softly. "If the man I loathe most in the 
world hath his will o' me whene'er it please him, shall I deny the man who 
delivers me from all my pain?" She fingered the fishbone ring and smiled. 
"Nay, 'twere a sin if my savior took not his entire pleasure this very 
night, ere I fly." 

"Prithee, say no farther," Ebenezer answered, and wondered whether 
she had capitalized the word savior. "My conscience would not rest were 
I to stand 'twixt you and your loving father. You shall have the ring." He 
slipped the rawhide thong over his head and presented her with the ring 
of Quassapelagh. To his mild annoyance the swine-maiden did not imme- 
diately melt with gratitude; indeed, her bearing stiffened as she took the 
gift, and her smile showed a certain bitterness. 

"Done, then," she said, and stuffed the ring and lanyard into a pocket of 
her dress. They were at the edge of the woods, by a tobacco-field; the moon 
rising over the mouth of the river whitened their faces and the flanks of the 
hogs that rooted idly in the green tobacco. Susan stepped out into the field, 
laid her staff on the ground between the rows, and turned to face them with 
her arms akimbo. 

"Now, Master Laureate of Maryland," she sighed, "come swive me in 
the sot-weed and have done with't." 

The poet was shocked. "'Sheart, Mrs. Warren, you misconstrue my 
gesture!" 

"Ah?" She tossed her uncombed hair back from her face. "Anon, then, 
in the haymow by the barn? Surely thou'rt not the sort that wants a bed!" 

Ebenezer stepped forward to protest. "I beg of you, madam " 

" 'Tis not your servant's presence puts ye off, now, is it?" she said mock- 
ingly. "Ye look the type that swives in broad daylight, let watch who will! 
Would it please ye better if I feign a rape?" 

"God save us," Bertrand said, "the jade hath spirit! Plague take the hour 
I lost my fishbone ring!" 

"Enough!" the Laureate cried. "I have no designs upon your person, 



[22 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Mrs. Warren, nor do I want reward of any sort, save that you join your 
father and throw off the vicious craving that hath whored you. To lay with 
women is contrary to my vows, and to set a price on charity is an insult to 
my principles." 

This gave the swine-maid pause; she folded her arms,, turned her head 
away, and dug a pensive toenail in the dirt. 

"My master is a sort of rhyming priest," Bertrand explained quickly. "The 
bishop, don't you know, of all the poets. But 'tis a well-known fact that the 
priest's vows are not binding on his sexton, nor do my master's principles 
extend to me " 

"Is't principle that makes your master scorn me?" Susan interrupted, and 
though her question was addressed to Bertrand it was Ebenezer she re- 
garded "Or is't just my sorry state that makes him moral? He'd sing a lustier 
tune, methinks, were I free of whip-scars and the smell o' pigs, and young 
and sprightly as the girl Joan Toast." 

'What name is this?" cried the poet. "Dear God, I thought you said 
Joan Toast!" 

Susan nodded affirmatively, once more dissolving into tears. "That is 
the girl I spoke of, that anon will be my master's newest sister, and the 
death of Susan Warren." 

Ebenezer appealed to his valet. " 'Tis too fantastic, Bertrand!" 

"I scarce can credit it myself, sir," Bertrand said. "Yet there is that passing 
likeness, that her tale explains." 

"'Tis not so strange," the girl said testily. "For all her sweet airs, this 
Joan Toast was a simple whore in London not long since, and many's the 
man hath known her." 

"I forbid you to speak thus!" the Laureate ordered. "I hold a certain 
reverence for Joan Toast; she hath a strange deep home in me, for 
reasons known to none besides ourselves. Where is she, for the love of God? 
We must preserve her from this Mitchell!" 

"How can we?" Bertrand asked. "We've neither weapons nor money." 

Ebenezer grasped the swine-maiden's arm. 'Tou must take her with you 
to your father's farm!" he said. "Tell her your tale and explain the peril she 
is in. Once I arrive at Maiden I shall fetch her there " 

"And marry her?" asked Susan with some bitterness. "Or pimp for her 
instead, and keep your vows?" 

The Laureate blushed. " 'Tis not the time for speculations and conjec- 
tures!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 331 ] 

"In any case I cannot take her," Susan said. "I've fare for but a single 
passage." 

"We soon can alter that!" Bertrand laughed, and leaped to pinion both 
her arms. "Snatch back the ring, sir, while I hold her!" 

"You pig!" she squealed. "I'll have your ugly eyes outl" 

"Nay, Bertrand," Ebenezer said, "let her go." 

"This sorry jade?" cried Bertrand, laughing at her attempts to wriggle 
free. "She's but a hedge-whore, sir! Snatch the ring!" 

Ebenezer shook his head sadly. "Hedge-whore or no, I gave it to her in 
all good faith," he said. "Besides, we do not know this boatman, nor where 
Joan Toast may be. Release her." 

Bertrand let go the swine-girl's arms and gave her a sportive pinch. 
She squealed another curse, picked up her staff, and let fly at him a blow 
that, had he not jumped clear of it, would have cost him several ribs. 

"Ye'll call me a sorry hedge-whore!" she said fiercely,, and ran him off 
some way across the field. Ebenezer, much more concerned about Joan 
Toast than about either of them, set off with a thoughtful frown toward 
the house. 

"Your servant is a lecherous swine," said Susan, catching tip to him a 
moment later. She brushed her hair back with her hand and prodded the 
pigs to get them going. "I beg your pardon for running him off." 

"He had it coming," the poet said distractedly. 

"And I thank ye for respecting a gift, e'en though 'twas not all charity 
that moved ye. Ye must think highly of this wench Joan Toast" 

"I will do anything to save her," Ebenezer said. 

"I think I can arrange it with the boatman," Susan said. "He hath no 
use for me, but a fresh young tart like Joan hath ways to please the feeblest." 

"Nay, I shan't allow it! I shall find some other way. Where is she?" 

The swine-girl did not know where Joan Toast lived, but said she called 
on Captain Mitchell nightly. "This very night he plans to giye her opium, 
with my help. I shall catch her ere she comes in, if ye wish, and send her to 
some privy place to meet ye." 

Ebenezer agreed wholeheartedly to this plan,, and though he quailed at 
the prospect of meeting Captain Mitchell, Susan persuaded him to join 
the planter at supper. "The Devil himself can play the gentleman," she 
said. "All men are welcome at the Captain's board, and belike he'll change 
your rags for something better when he hears your tale. I'll send ye word 
when Joan Toast is well hid, and lead ye to her ere I set out for my father's." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Done!" the poet exclaimed, well pleased. "I cannot fathom why she is 
in Maryland, but I shall rejoice to see her!" 

"And prithee, are ye sure she'll feel the same?" the swine-maid teased. 
"Can any tart believe thou'rt still a virgin?" 

"That doth not matter," Ebenezer declared. "No man would think me 
Laureate, either, in this condition, yet Laureate I am, and virginal as well. 
Marry, Susan, how I yearn to see that girl! I beg thee not to fail me!" 

Susan sniffed acknowledgment and they came up to the house, a large 
but ill-kept split-log dwelling. It squatted amid the fields of green tobacco 
and weed-ridden garden crops, and the bare earth round about it was 
malodorous with the stools of many hens. 

"Methinks your master hath fallen far," Ebenezer observed, "to be re- 
duced to such a dwelling." 

"How's that?" the woman exclaimed. " Tis one o' the finest on the river! 
Far too fine a seat for such a wicked wretch as he!" 

Ebenezer made no comment, but wondered briefly whether to cast away 
certain verses in his head which praised the grace of Maryland's dwellings, 
or preserve them lest Susan's knowledge prove incomplete. When the 
swine-girl left him in order to drive her charges back to the barn, he called 
for Bertrand, who came forth hurling curses after her, and they made their 
way to the front of the house. 

"Pray Heav'n the wench is right about her master," Ebenezer said, and 
knocked on the door. 

"I would not trust the strumpet twenty paces," Bertrand grumbled. "The 
man could murther us in our sleep." 

The door was opened by a fleshy man in his fifties, red-nosed and chop- 
whiskered, who had nonetheless an air of good breeding about his person. 

"Good evening, gentlemen/' he said with a slightly mocking bow. His 
clothes were fashionable, if seedy, and the excellent gravity of his voice 
came partly from cultivation, Ebenezer suspected, and partly from a well- 
liquored laiynx. Despite their wretched appearance he was as hospitable as 
Susan had predicted: he introduced himself as Captain William Mitchell, 
invited the visitors into the house most cordially, and insisted they stay the 
night 

"Be ye from Jail or college," he declared, "thou'rt welcome here, I swear. 
Dinner's on its way, and do ye set down yonder with the rest, there's cider 
to whet your hunger." 

Ebenezer thanked his host and launched into an explanation of their 
plight which, however, Captain Mitchell pleasantly declined to hear, sug- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 333 ] 

gesting instead that it serve to entertain the table. The guests were then 
led to the dining-room, from which sounds of merriment had all along been 
issuing, and were introduced to a company of half a dozen planters of the 
neighborhood, among whom, to his considerable surprise, Ebenezer saw 
the clip-eared old ferryman and one or two others who had stood that day 
in Scotch cloth on the landing. They greeted him merrily and without 
malice. 

"We looked for ye to join us, Mister Cooke," one said. "Ye must forgive 
Jim Keech's little prank/' 

"To be sure," Ebenezer said, seeing no other position to take. "HI grant 
I look more like a beggar than the Poet Laureate of Maryland, but when 
you've heard what trials my man and I have suffered,, you may appreciate 
our state." 

"We shall, I'm sure/' the host said soothingly. "Indeed we shall." He 
then sent Bertrand to eat back in the kitchen and directed Ebenezer to a 
seat at the dinner table, which made up in quantity what it lacked in 
elegance. Being very hungry, Ebenezer fell to at once and stuffed himself 
with pone, milk, hominy, and cider-pap flavored with bacon fat and 
dulcified with molasses, washing down the whole with hard cider from the 
cask that stood at hand. He had, in fact, debated for a moment the wisdom 
of revealing his identity, but since he had already revealed it on impulse 
to the men on the landing, and since the company showed no trace of 
hostility, he saw no harm in relating the whole of the story. This he pro- 
ceeded to do when the meal was finished and all the guests had retired to 
greasy leather couches in the parlor; he left out only the political aspects of 
his capture and the adventure with Drakepecker and the Anacostin King, 
whose safety he feared the tale might jeopardize. His audience attended 
with great interest, especially when he came to the rape of the Cyprian 
his tongue inspired by the rum-keg in the parlor, Ebenezer spoke with 
graphic eloquence of Boabdil in the mizzen-rigging and the nobly insouci- 
ant ladies at the larboard rail yet when done he saw, to his mild chagrin, 
small signs of the pity and terror that he thought his tale must eyoke in the 
most callous auditor: instead, the men applauded as if at some performance, 
and Captain Mitchell, so far from commiserating, requested him to recite a 
poem or two by way of encore. 

"I fear I must decline," the Laureate said, not a little piqued. "This day 
hath been fatiguing, and my voice is spent." 

"Too bad our Timmy is not with us," said Jim Keech of the branded 
palm. "He'd spin ye one would ferry ye 'cross the Bay!" 



[ 334 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"My son Tim's no mean hand at rhymes himself/' Captain Mitchell ex- 
plained to Ebenezer, "but ye might say they're of a somewhat coarser 
breed." 

"He is a laureate too," Jim Keech affirmed with a grin. "He calls himself 
the Laureate of Lubricity, that he says means simple smut." 

"Indeed?" the poet said, more out of politeness than genuine curiosity. 
"I did not know our host possessed a son." 

He was, in fact, preoccupied with thoughts of Joan Toast and the swine- 
maiden, of whom he'd been reminded by Keech's reference to crossing 
the Bay. Captain Mitchell apologized to tie group for the absence of his 
popular son, who he declared had gone to do some business in St. Mary's 
City and was due to return that night or the following day; it was difficult 
for Ebenezer to realize that this affable country squire before him was 
the monstrous villain of Susan Warren's tale, yet there were the whip-scars 
on her legs, every bit as cruel as those on Drakepecker's back, and the 
otherwise unaccountable resemblance between the victims of his passion. 

The company now was virtually ignoring him: pipes made after the 
Indian fashion had been distributed, and the room was filled with smoke 
and general gossip. Knowing nothing of the crops, fish, rattlesnakes, or 
personalities under discussion, irritated that his plight had not aroused more 
sympathy, and weary of the long, eventful day during which he'd been a 
castaway, a god, a deliverer of kings and maidens in distress, and the Poet 
Laureate of Maryland, Ebenezer disengaged his attention from their re- 
marks and slipped into a kind of anxious reverie: How would Joan Toast 
receive him, after all? Where had she gone from his room in Pudding Lane, 
and how had her fearful dudgeon led her hither? He burned to know, yet 
feared the answers to these questions. The hour was growing late; soon now, 
if she were not deceiving him, Susan Warren should- send word of his 
rendezvous, and the prospect was in no small sense arousing. He recalled 
the sight of Joan Toast in his room and of the girl he'd meant to assault 
aboard the Cyprian 

"Dear God in Heaven!" his thoughts cried out, and he tingled to the 
marrow of his soul. The connection he'd not seen till then suffused him 
with remorse and consternation: had Joan Toast somehow got aboard the 
Cyprian? Was it she whom he had stalked with prurient cries, and whom 
the horrid Moor . . . ? 

His features waxed so rampant at this unspeakable possibility that his 
host at once inquired about his health. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [335] 

"Nay, sir, I beg pardon," Ebenezer managed to say. "Tis but fatigue, 
I swear't!" 

"To bed, then, ere ye die here in the parlor," Captain Mitchell laughed. 
"I'll show ye where to sleep." 

"Nay, prithee " begged the poet, afraid lest he miss his scheduled 

assignation. 

"Fie on your London manners, Mister Cooke!" the host insisted. "In 
Maryland when a man is tired, he sleeps. Susan! Susan, ye lazy trollop, get 
thee hither!" 

"Ah, well, sir, if 'tis no affront to you or your gracious guests " The 

swine-maiden appeared in the doorway of the parlor, answered Ebenezer's 
glance with a little nod, and turned a sullen glare upon the planters, who 
greeted her appearance with horny salutations. 

"Show Mister Cooke here to a bedchamber," Mitchell ordered, and bade 
his guest good night. 

"D'ye think she'll lay for a sonnet," Jim Keech called after him, "like 
that Spanish whore ye spoke of?" 

"Nay, Keech," another answered. "What use hatk Susie of a laureate 
poet? She hath Bill Mitchell's red boar to sport with!" 

If these gross comments mortified Ebenezer they titillated him as well, 
and revived the vague ardor that his late conjecture had not entirely 
douched. The swine-maiden had donned her flogging-dress, which if 
scarcely more elegant than the other, was at least clean, and to judge by 
the smell of her she had washed herself as well. As soon as they were on the 
stairs he caught her arm and whispered "Where is Joan Toast? I cannot 
wait to see her!" 

The woman's imperfect teeth glinted in the light of her candle. "Thou'rt 
passing ardent for a virgin, Master Laureate! I fear for your vows when ye 
see her in your chamber. . . ." 

"My chamber? Ah, God, Mrs. Warren, 'twas in my chamber I saw her 
last, as pink and naked as a lover's dream! You'd not believe how fine her 
fair skin feels, or how tight and sprightly is her whole small bodyah, stay, 
not all, at that: how could I forget 'the fat of her little buttocks, o'ertop the 
hard young muscle? Or the softness of her breasts, that gently flattened 
when she lay supine, but hung like apples of Heav'n when she bent o'er 
me? I shiver at the memory!" 

"Marry, thou'rt all afire, sir!" Susan said, leading the way down an up- 
stairs hall. "I dare not leave the poor girl in your clutches: ye sound more 
like a rapist than a priest!" 



[ 536 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

She said this drily, without any real concern, but the mention of rape 
was enough to calm the poet's feverish rhetoric. "I beg your pardon for 
speaking thus, madam: 'tis rum, fatigue, and joy that work my tongue. 
Prithee recall I never swived this girl, albeit she's everything I say and more. 
I've no mind to break my vows/' 

Susan paused outside a door and turned toward him so that the candle- 
light flickered on her ruined face; Ebenezer regretted his thoughtless 
words. 

"How can ye know she still hath all her beauty?" Susan said. "I too was 
pretty once, and not long since. My husband wept with joy to see my 
body, and did I place his hand just so, his knees would fail him. Today 
'twould make him retch/' 

"Thou'rt too severe," the poet protested. 

"D'ye think I cannot see what's in your mind? Ye wish I'd get me gone 
posthaste, so ye might have an appetite for that heavenly fruit ye long 
for. But life leaves its scars on all of us, the pure as well as the wicked, 
and a pretty girl gets the worst oft. Ye've changed as well, I'll wager, since 
she saw ye last" 

Ebenezer rubbed his matted beard, "I am no courtier, at that," he ad- 
mitted, "and I stink of dirt and wood smoke. Is there a pail hereabouts to 
wash in? Ah, fie on it! Let her receive me as she will, I cannot wait to see 
her! Good night to you, Mrs. Warren, and good luck. A thousand thanks 
for aiding my dear Joan! Adieu, now, and bon voyage!" He moved to pass 
beside her to the door. 

"Nay, wait!" she pleaded. 

<< Not a moment more!" He pushed past her to the door and stepped 
into the chamber, which, since it looked out on the river, received some 
small light from the moon but was otherwise entirely dark. "Joan Toast!" 
he called softly. "Precious girl, where are you? 'Tis Eben Cooke the poet, 
come to save you!" 

The moonlight showed no other person in the chamber, nor was there 
any answer from the shadows roundabout; when the swine-maiden came 
in tearfully from the hall, her candlelight confirmed his apprehension. 

"Where is she?" he demanded, and when she hung her head he shook 
her roughly by the shoulders. "Have you deceived me too, you thankless 
trollop? Take me to Joan Toast this instant!" 

"She is not here/' the swine-girl sobbed. She set the candle down and 
bolted for the hall, but Ebenezer pulled her back and closed the door. 

"By Heav'n, I'll have it from thy horrid hide," he said, holding her tightly 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 337 1 

from behind. "If any harm befalls Joan Toast 111 kill you!" For all his great 
alarm, he could not but be conscious of Susan Warren's corsetless hips under 
the sleazy cotton, and the breasts that were mashed beneath his arm. His 
righteous anger thrilled him: his breath came short and hard, and he 
squeezed her until she paused in her struggling to cry aloud. He wrestled 
her to the bed, possessed with the urge to punish. Not having prior experi- 
ence at such sport, he first laid awkward thumps about her back, at the same 
time gruffly crying "Where is Joan Toast?" A moment later he held her flat 
with one knee in the small of her back and commenced to spank her smartly 
with the flat of his hand as though she were an errant daughter. 

"She's safe!" squalled Susan. "Leave off!" 

Ebenezer paused between blows, but held her fast with his knee. "Where 
is she?" 

"She's on her way across the Chesapeake to Dorset County, to wait for 
ye at Maiden," Susan said. "The boatman said he knows the manor well." 

"How's that?" Ebenezer released his hold at once and sprang to his feet, 
but the swine-girl, her face pressed woefully into the quilt, macje no move 
to rise. "Where did she get the fare, and how is it thou'rt not with her?" 

"She was penniless/' Susan said. "I caught her on her way to borrow 
money from Captain Mitchell, which had been the end o' her; but devil 
the bit she'd take the ring for fare, till I told her who had giv'n it me and 
whither she was to flee. Then she took it right enough, and would see you 
on the instant, but I bade her make haste to find the boatman ere he 
sailed." 

Tears sprang to Ebenezer's eyes; with one knee on the bed he hugged 
the girl's back. "God's body, and I struck you for betraying me! Forgive me, 
Susan, or I shall perish of remorse! We'll find some way to save you yet, I 
swear't!" 

She shook her head. "The girl ye love is a fresh and comely piece, sir, 
for all she hath played the whore in London; she said she had got her fill 
o' men that behaved like goats, and had put by her profession ere it ruined 
her. She scorned ye once when ye would not hire her, and more when ye 
resolved to stay a virgin; but the farther she reflected on't the nobler ye 
appeared, and when she learned her pimp had got ye sent to Maryland, 
she left him straight and followed ye for very love." 

"I'God! FGod! For very love!" the Laureate whispered. "But thou'rt a 
saint to sacrifice thyself for her!" 

"Joan Toast was worth the saving," Susan answered. "There's naught o' 
Susan Warren to preserve, or I'd look to't myself. Let the poor wretch die." 



[ 338 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"I shan't allow it!" Ebenezer cried. He sprang to his feet. "Thou'rt too 
fine for such a fate!" 

Susan sat up on the bed. "Tis not long since ye called me a horrid 
trollop, and methinks ye took some joy in beating me/' 

"I was a beast to touch you!" Ebenezer said. "Would God you'd give 
me back my blows tenfold!" 

She covered her face with her hands. "I am so ugly!" 
"Not so!" the poet lied. "Thou'rt still uncommon fair, I sweart!" He 
kneeled before her, embarrassed and contrite, yet still aroused, despite him- 
self, from the recent tussle. "I shall confess somewhat to you for proof," 
he said. "My beating you was doubly wicked, for not only was it undeserved 
butah God, how sinful! I took pleasure in't, as you charged. Nor was't 
a righteous pleasure, but a lustful one! The feel and sight of your of what 
I felt and saw it fired my veins with lust. Doth that not prove you have 
not lost your beauty, Susan?" 

The boldness of his speech excited him further, but Susan was not 
consoled. "It proves my backside's fairer than my face. That's not the praise 
a woman longs to hear, I should say." 

The Laureate pressed his forehead against her legs. His own knees ached 
a little on the floor, and he remembered, with a shiver, that the last time he 
had knelt beside a bed it was the legs of Joan Toast that he had clung 
to. "What can I do to show you my esteem?" 
"'Tis not esteem you feel; 'tis simple gratitude." 
But Ebenezer ignored this sullen reply, for even while Susan was making 
it he found an answer as if by inspiration. 

"Call't what you will, 'tis great," he said. "You have sacrificed your self- 
respect to save the girl I love. Very well, then: I shall sacrifice my essence 
to save your self-respect!" 

The swine-maiden looked at him uncomprehendingly. 
"Do you understand?" Ebenezer rose to his feet, breathing so hard that 
his speech came with difficulty. "So great is my esteem that though I've 
vowed to keep my innocence forever 'tis thine in token of my gratitude. 
Twill prove you have not lost your power to please a gentleman!" Trem- 
bling all over, he laid his hands on her shoulders. 

Susan looked up at his flushed face with alarm. "Ye wish to swive me, 
sir? What will Joan Toast think, that loves ye for a virgin?" 

"My chastity means more than life to me," the poet vowed, "else I'd not 
presume to match it against your sacrifice. My loss is great, but subtle, and 
leaves no broken hymen as its symbol. No one shall know but thee and 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 339 ] 

me, and I shall never tell. Come, girl," he croaked, waxing hot, "tarry no 
longer! I itch fpr the combat!" 

But Susan wriggled free and stepped away from him. 'Te'd deceive her, 
that hath come so far for love! Haply thou'rt already not a virgin, then!" 

" Tore God I am till now," he said, "and if you call this deed deceit, 
then grant at least 'tis done for noble cause!" 

She turned away in tears, but when, summoning every particle of his 
courage, Ebenezer embraced her from behind, she offered no more protest 
than to cry, "What shall I think?" 

"That thou'rt yet a comely piece!" Astonished at his own temerity, 
he caressed her. When even then she did not resist, her passivity fired him 
with encouragement. 

"Ho, here," he cried, "to the bed with you!" Dizzy with success, he gave 
his tongue free rein. "I shall cleave thee with the rhymer's blade, cure thee 
with the smoke of love, stuff thee with the lardoon of Parnassus, baste and 
infuse thee with the muse's nectar, and devour thee while thou'rt yet 
aquiver!" 

"Nay, prithee," Susan said, "ye've proved your point!" 

"And now shall press and ply it like St. Thomas," Ebenezer said, "till 
my virgin quill hath writ a very Summa!" 

" 'Twere cruel to feign such passion out of gratitude, and wicked to cheat 
Joan Toast!" She offered real resistance now, but Ebenezer would not re- 
lease her. 

"Then call me cruel and wicked when thou'rt swivedl" He pushed her 
onto the bed. 

" 'Twill be a common rape!" she squealed. 

"So be't!" 

"Not here, then! 'Sheart, not here!" 

"Why not, pray?" asked the poet; he paused with his innocence, as it 
were, at the ready. 

"Some women take a man without a sound," the swine-girl said, averting 
her eyes, "but I cannot; whether 'tis a wooing or what have ye, I must 
hollow like a rutting cat, and flail about." 

"So much the better," Ebenezer said. 

" 'Twill bring the household running Stop, I warn ye!" 

"They are no canting Puritans, methinks hold still, there!" 

"Then swive me, damn ydur eyes!" Susan cried, and gave up struggling 
altogether. "Break your vow, cheat Joan Toast, let Captain Mitchell come 



[ 34 1 THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

a-running when I scream! He'll laugh to see't, and beat me later for't, and 
tell the tale all up and down the Province!" 

This possibility gave the Laureate pause. He released his grip on the 
woman's arms, and she took the opportunity to move aside and sit up. 

"I'll throttle you if I must/' he said, but the threat was more surly than 
sincere. 

"Ye needn't," Susan grumbled. "Slack off, now, ere ye take a lover's pain, 
and meet me in the barn anon." 

"Get on with't. I'm not so gullible! We'll go together." 

But Susan explained that they were sure to be seen leaving the house, 
and the scandal would be the same. 

"I'll go there now," she said, "and you come half an hour behind. Then 
ye may play the two-backed beast to your heart's content with no one save 
my swine to hear me." 

And on this ambiguous pledge she left, before the poet could catch her. 



<*$ 21: THE LAUREATE YET FURTHER ATTENDS THE 
SWINE-MAIDEN 



A VERY FEW MINUTES AFTER SUSAN WARREN'S DEPARTURE BERTRAND 

entered the Laureate's chamber and found his master pacing furiously 
about, sighing and smacking his fist into his hand. 

" 'Sbody, how these scoundrels eat!" the valet said. His voice was thick 
and his stance unsteady. " Tis coarse, I'll grant, but copious." 

"Methinks you more than quenched your thirst as well," Ebenezer ob- 
served uncordially. "What is't you want?" 

"Why, nothing that I know of, sir. What I mean, they said I was to sleep 
here." 

"Sleep, then, and be damned to you. There's the bed." 

"Ah, sir, 'tis thine, not mine. Only let me have that quilt; I'll want no 



more." 



Ebenezer shrugged and went to the window; unfortunately he could 
not see the barn from there. His valet spread the quilt on the floor, flopped 
heavily upon it, and sighed a mighty sigh. " 'Tis not the same as being god 
in a golden town," he declared, patting his stomach, "but 'twill do for the 
nonce, i'faith! I wonder how our man Drakepecker fares?" When he saw 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 341 ] 

no answer was forthcoming he sighed once more, turned on his side, and in 
a trice fell fast asleep. 

His master, less tranquil, cracked his knuckles and clucked his tongue; 
debating what to do. At Susan Warren's first distraction his mad impulse 
had faltered, and upon her departure from the room it had foundered al- 
together. He was at sixes and sevens. Twice now he had come within an 
ace of fornication worse, of meaningless rape and his integrity had been 
preserved by chance, through outside agencies. The girl in the Cyprian's 
rigging had been assaulted and was helpless; the Warren woman had been 
assaulted and was coarse and ugly in the face; both were objects not for 
passion but for pity, and what resemblance they bore to Joan Toast, so far 
from serving as an excuse for his inexcusable behavior, was further indict- 
ment of it. All this he saw clearly, and remembered as well the relief and 
shame he had felt a fortnight since, after fate had fetched him from the 
mizzen ratlines. To go now to the barn would be to cheat the girl who, 
incredibly, had come half around the world for love of a man never smiled 
on thitherto by any woman save his sister, and to sacrifice besides a good 
moiety of his essence to a ruined tart between him and whom no love was 
lost, and who would contemn the deed as much as he. Yet he also saw, and 
could not fathom, that in his heart the question still lay open. 

" 'Tis too absurd!" he thought, and flung himself angrily upon the bed 
where they had grappled. "I shall think of it no more." He regarded 
Bertrand with envy, but sleep, for him, was out of the question: his fancy 
burned with images of the swine-maiden suffering his punishments and 
molestations, confessing with averted eyes how noisily she wooed,, and wait- 
ing for him at that moment in the barn. On the scales of Prudence one 
pan lay empty, while Reason's entire weight tipped down the other; what 
dark force, then, on the scales of Choice, effected counterbalance? 

While thus he lay debating, his valet, though asleep, was by no means at 
rest His innards commenced to growl and snarl like beagles at a grounded 
fox; the hominy and cider in him foamed and effervesced; anon there came 
salutes to the rising moon, and the bedchamber filled with the perfume of 
ferment. The author of these delights snored roundly, but his master was 
not so fortunate; indeed, he had at length to flee the room, ears ringing, 
head a-spin, and the smart of bumbolts in his eyes. The guests were still 
carousing in the parlor; Ebenezer gathered from what he could hear that 
the host's son Timothy had returned and was regaling them with indelicate 
verses. He slipped out to the front porch unobserved to breathe the cool 



[ 342 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

air moving off the river, and from that way-station soon enough strolled 
bamwards, deaf to the judgment of his conscience. 

The moon shed light to walk by in the yard, but the inside of the barn 
was black as Chaos. He thought of calling Susan, but decided not to. 

"I shall approach in silence, and clip her like a brigand in the dark!" 

This was a thrilling fancy: he pricked up at every rustle in the barn, 
and the cramps of love like hatching chicks bid fair to burst their prisons. 
What's more, six stealthy paces in the dark were enough to stir his bladder 
past ignoring; he was obliged to relieve himself then and there before going 
farther. 

"God aideth those that aid themselves, 9 ' he reflected. 

But unlike Onan, who hit no noisier target than the ground, the hapless 
Laureate chanced to strike a cat, a half-grown torn not three feet distant 
that had looked like a gray rock in the dark. And like the finger-flick of 
Descartes' God, which Burlingame once spoke of, this small shot in the 
dark set an entire universe in motion! The mouser woke with a hiss and 
flew with splayed claws at the nearest animal fortunately not Ebenezer 
but one of Susan's shoats. The young pig squealed, and soon the barn was 
bleating with the cries of frightened animals. Ebenezer himself was terri- 
fied, at first by the animals, whose number and variety he had not suspected, 
and then lest the din, now amplified by barking dogs outside, arouse the 
household. When he jumped back, holding up his breeches in one hand, 
he happened upon a stick leaning against the wall possibly Susan's staff. 
Me snatched it up, at the same time crying "Susan! Susan!" and laid about 
him vigorously until the combatants ran off the shoat into the cow stalls 
and the cat into a corner whence had come some sound of poultry. A 
moment later the respite ended: the barn was filled with quacks and 
squawks; ducks, geese, and chickens beat the air wildly in their effort to 
flee the cat, and Ebenezer suffered pecks about the head and legs as 
bird after bird encountered him. This new commotion was too much for 
the dogs, a pair of raucous spaniels: they bounded in from the yard in 
pursuit of what they took to be a fox or a weasel preying on the poultry, 
and for all the Laureate thrashed around him with his stick, they ran him 
from the barn and treed him in a poplar near the closest tobacco-shed. 
There they held him at bay for some fifteen minutes before trotting off to 
sleep, their native lack of enthusiasm overcoming their brief ambition. 

As yet the poet had seen no sign of Susan Warren, and he began to fear 
she had deceived him after all. He resolved to descend and try the barn 
once more, both to verify his suspicions and to take cover from the 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 343 ] 

mosquitoes, which were raising welts all over his face and ankles; but as he 
was climbing down he heard a noise like a buzz or rattle in the grass. Was 
it only a common cricket, or was it one of those snakes Mr. Keech had 
described during supper? The notion of descent lost all its charm, and 
though he heard the sound no more, and the mosquitoes were no less 
hungry, he remained a good while longer in the tree, too frightened even 
to compose an indignant Hudibrastic. 

He might, in fact, have still been there at sunup for on the heels of 
Fear, like a tart behind her pimp, came the shame he knew would embrace 
him soon or late, and Shame brought her gaunt-eyed sister-whore Despair 
but at length he heard some man at the back of the house say "No more, 
now, Susan; good night and get ye gone!" Then the house door closed, 
and a cloaked form crossed the distant yard and entered the barn. 

"That scoundrel Mitchell had her in the parlor!" Ebenezer thought, and 
recalled the coarse familiarity with which the planter had saluted her. "She 
was accosted as she left and put to some lewd entertainment, and only now 
hath managed to escape!" 

This conjecture, so far from filling him with pity, revived his ardor at 
once, as had the plight of the Cyprian women; quietly and cautiously he 
slid down from the poplar and stalked through the tall grass to the bam, 
expecting at any moment to feel the fangs of the viper in his heel. Arriving 
safely at the doorway, he entered without a sound and saw inside only the 
faintest of gleams from a shaded lantern. 

"Hssst!" he whispered, and "Hssst!" came the reply. Ebenezer heard a 
labored respiration, unmistakably human, just down the wall from where 
he stood, and so resolved to call no more, but execute his original plan of 
surprise assault. Very carefully he crept toward his prey, whose location in 
the pigpen he fixed easily by her heavy breathing and the rustle of restless 
swine in her vicinity. Only when he judged himself virtually upon her did 
he croon "Susie, Susie, me doxy, me dove!" at the same time clutching 
amorously at her form. 

Bare legs he felt, and hams, but 

"Heav'n upon earth, what's this?" 

"What is't, indeed?" a man's voice cried, and after a short struggle the 
poet found himself pinned face down in the sour straw of the pen. His 
would-be victim sat upon his back and held his arms; sows, hogs, and shoats 
snuffled nervously together at the far end of the enclosure. "Ye thought me 
your doxy, your dove, now, did ye? What knave are ye, sir?" 



[ 344 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Prithee, let me but explain!" Ebenezer pleaded. "I am Captain 

Mitchell's guest!" 

"Our guest! What way is this to return our hospitality? Ye^dnnk our 
cider and eat our hominy and then ye think to swive my Portia!" 

"Portia? Who is Portia?" 

"The same my father calls Susie. Til wager he put ye up to this!" 

The Laureate's heart sank. "Your father! Then thou'rt Tim Mitchell?" 

"The same. And which ungrateful wretch are you?" 

"I am Ebenezer Cooke, sir, Poet and Laureate of the Province of 
Maryland " 

"Nay!" said Mitchell, clearly impressed, and to Ebenezer's great sur- 
prise he released his hold at once. "Sit up, sir, please, and forgive my rude 
behavior; 'twas but concern for my Portia's chastity." 

"II quite forgive you," the poet said. He sat up hastily, wondering at 
the fellow's words. Tim Mitchell, to judge by his voice, was a man of Ebene- 
zer's age at least; how could he speak of Susan's chastity? "I believe thou'rt 
having a jest at my expense, Mr. Mitchell, are you not?" 

"Or you at mine," the other man sighed. "Ah well, ye've caught us fair, 
and Portia's life is in your hands." 

"Her life! She's here, then, in this pen?" 

"Of course, sir; over yonder with the rest. I beg ye not to speak a word 
to Father!" 

"Marry!" the poet cried. "What madness is this, Mister Mitchell? Explain 
yourself, I beg you!" 

The other man sighed. " 'Tis just as well I did, for if ye mean to ruin us, 
ye will, and if thou'rt a gentleman, perchance ye'll leave us in peace." 

"Thou'rt in love with Susan?" Ebenezer asked incredulously. 

"Aye and I am," Tim Mitchell replied, "and have been since the day I 
saw her. Her name is really Portia, Mister Cooke; 'tis Father calls her Susie, 
after a whore of a mistress he once had. He regards her as his property, sir, 
and treats her like a beast! Should he learn the truth of our love there 
would be no end to his wrath!" 

Ebenezer^s brain spun dizzily. "Dear Mister Mitchell " 

, 'The blackguard!" Timothy went on, his voice unsteady. "Till he hath 
got that new wench in his power, he comes out eveningly to poor sweet 
Portia, whose maidenhead he claimed when she was yet a shoat too young 
to fend him off." 

Ebenezer could not but admire the metaphor of the shoat, and yet 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 345 ] 

there were obvious discrepancies between the accounts of Susan's past. "I 
do declare," he protested, "this is not " 

"There is no limit to the man's poltroonery/' Timothy hissed. "Albeit 
he is my father, sir, I loathe him like the Devil! Say naught of this, I beg ye, 
for in his wickedness, did he know aught of our love, he would give her to 
the lecherous boar in yonder pen, that e'er hath looked on her with lewd 
intent, and let him take his slavering will o' her/' 

Ebenezer gasped. "You do not mean to say " 

But even as the truth dawned on him, young Mitchell called "Portia! 
Hither, Portia! Soo-ieF and an animal shuffled over from the far wall in 
the dark. 

"Lookee there, how gentle!" Tim said proudly. 

"Out on't!" the Laureate whispered. 

"Think o' her as your own dear sister, sir: would ye consign her to be 
ravished by a filthy beast?" 

"I would not," Ebenezer exclaimed, "and I am affronted by the 
analogy! In sooth I cannot tell who's beastlier, the buggerman or the boar; 
'tis the viciousest vice I e'er encountered!" 

Timothy Mitchell's voice reflected more disappointment than intimidar 
tion at the outburst. "Ah, sir, no amorous practice is itself a vice can ye 
be in sooth a poet and not see that? Adultery, rape, deceit, unfair seduction 
'tis these are vicious, not the coupling of parts: the sin is not in the act, 
but in the circumstances." 

Ebenezer wished he could see this curious moralist's face. "What you 
say may well be true, but you speak of men and women " 

"Shame on a poet that hearkens so lightly!" Timothy chided. " Twas 
male and female I spoke of, not men and women." 

"But such a foul, unnatural jointure!" 

Timothy laughed. "Methinks Dame Nature's not so nice as thee, sir. I 
grant ye that a rabbit-hound in heat seeks out a bitch to mate with, but 
doth he care a fig be she turnspit or mastiff? Nay, more, by Heav'n, he'll 
have at any partner, be't his bitch, his brother, or his master's boot! His 
urge is natural, and hath all nature for its targetwith a hound-bitch at 
the bulls-eye, so to speak. I have seen yonder spaniels humping sheep. . . ." 

Ebenezer sighed. "The face of buggery hath yet a sinful leer, for all the 
paint and powder of your rhetoric. These poor dumb creatures are be- 
trayed by accident, but man hath light enough to see Dame Nature's 
plan." 

"And sense enough to see it hath no object, save to carry on the species," 



[ 346 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Timothy added. "And wit enough to do for sport what the beasts do willy- 
nilly. I have no quarrel with women, Master Poet: 'tis many a maid I've 
loved ere now and doubtless shall again. But just as Scripture tells us that 
death is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, so Boredom, methinks, is the 
fruit of Wit and Fancy. A new mistress lies upon her back at night in a 
proper chamber, and her lover is content. But anon this simple pleasure 
palls, and they set about to refine their sport: from Aretine they learn the 
joy of sundry stoops and stances; from Boccaccio and the rest they learn to 
woo by the light o' day, in fields and wine butts and chimney corners; 
from Catullus and the naughty Greeks they learn There are more ways to 
the 'woods than one, and more woods than one to be explored by every way. 
If they have wit and daring there is no end to their discovery, and if they 
read as well, they have the amorous researches of the race at their disposal: 
the pleasures of Cathay, of Moors and Turks and Africans, and the cleverest 
folk of Europe. Is this not the way oft, sir? When men like us become 
enamored of a woman, we fall in love with every part and aspect; we cannot 
rest till we know with all our senses every plain and secret part of our 
beloved, and then we gnash our teeth that we cannot go beneath her skin! 
I am no great poet like you, sir, but 'twas just this craving I once turned 
into verse, in this manner: 

"Let me taste of thy Tears, 

And the Wax. of thine Ears; 
Let me drink of thy Body's own Wine " 

"Eh! 'Sheart! Have done ere you gag me!" Ebenezer cried. "Thy body's 
own wine! Ne'er have I heard such verses! 7 ' 

"Thou'rt a stranger to Master Barnes, then, the sonneteer? He longed to 
be the sherry in his mistress's glass, that she might curl him in her tongue, 
warm her amorous blood with him, and piss him forth anon. . . ." 

'There is a certain truth in all of this you tell me," Ebenezer admitted. 
"I'll grant you farther that were I not resolved to chastity nay, do not 
laugh, sir, 'tis true, as ITI explain in time were I not resolved to chastity, I 
say, but had me a mistress like the lot of men, I should feel this urge you 
speak of, to know her in every wise, saving only her 'body's own wine' and 
such like liquors, that can stay in her distillery for all I'll quaff 'em! There's 
naught unnatural in this: 'tis but the lover's ancient wish that Plato speaks 
of, to be one body with his beloved; and with poets in especial 'tis not to be 
wondered at, forasmuch as love and woman are so oft the stuff of verse. 
Yet 'tis no mean leap from Petrarch's Laura, or even Barnes's thirsty 
wench, to your fat sow Portia here!" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 347 ] 

"On the contrary, sir, 'tis no leap at all," Tim said. "You have already 
pled my case. Your Socrates had Xanthippe to warm his bed, but he took 
his sport with the young Greek lads as well, did he not? Ye say that women 
are oft the stuff o' poetry, but in fact 'tis the great wide world the poet sings 
of: God's whole creation is his mistress, and he hath for her this selfsame 
love and boundless curiosity. He loves the female body Heav'n knows! 
the little empty space between her thighs he loves, that meet to make 
sweet friction lower down; and the two small dimples in the small o' her 
back, that are no strangers to his kiss/' 

41 Tis quite established," Ebenezer said, his blood roused up afresh, "the 
female form is wondrous to behold!" 

"But shall it blind ye to the beauty of the male, sir? Not if ye've Plato's 
eyes, or Shakespeare's. How comely is a well-formed man! That handsome 
cage of ribs, and the blocky muscles of his calves and thighs; the definition 
of his hands, ridged and squared with veins and tendons, and more pleasing 
than a woman's to the eye; the hair of his chest, that the nicest sculptors 
cannot render; and noblest of all,, his manhood in repose! What contrast to 
that sweet unclutteredness of women! The chiefest fault of the sculpting 
Greeks, methinks, is that their marble men have the parts of little boys: 
'tis pederastic art, and I abhor it. How wondrous, had they carved the living 
truth, that folk in ancient times were wont to worship the very mace and 
orbs of kingly power!" 

"I too have admired men on occasion," Ebenezer said grudgingly, "but 
my flesh recoils at the thought of amorous connection!" His unseen partner's 
words, in fact, had recalled to him the indignities which he had suffered 
more than three months earlier in the Poseidon's fo'c'sle. 

"Then more's the pity," Tim said lightly, "for there's much to be said of 
men in verse. Marry, sometimes I wish I had a gift with words, sir, or some 
poet had my soul: what lines I would make about the bodies of men and 
women! And the rest of creation as well!" Ebenezer heard him patting 
Portia. "Great rippling hounds, sleek mares, or golden cows how can men 
and women rest content with little pats for such handsome beasts? I, I love 
them from the last recesses of my soul; my heart aches with passion for their 
bodies!" 

"Perversity, Mr. Mitchell!" the Laureate scolded. "You've parted com- 
pany now with Plato and Shakespeare, and with every other gentleman as 
well!" 

"But not with mankind," Timothy declared. "Europa, Leda, and Pasip^ae 
are my sisters; my offspring are the Minotaur, and the Gorgons, and the 



[ 34$ ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Centaurs, the beast-headed gods of the Egyptians, and all the handsome 
royalty of the fairy tales, that must be loved in the form of toads and 
geese and bears. I love the world, sir, and so make love to it! I have sown 
my seed in men and women, in a dozen sorts of beasts, in the barky boles 
of trees and the honeyed wombs of flowers; I have dallied on the black 
breast of the earth, and clipped her fast; I have wooed the waves of the 
sea, impregnated the four winds, and flung my passion skywards to the 
stars!" 

So exalted was the voice in which this confession was delivered that 
Ebenezer shrank away, as discreetly as he could, some inches farther from 
its author, who he began to fear was mad. 

" Tis a most most interesting point of view," he said. 

"I was sure 'twould please ye/' Timothy said. "Tis the only way for a 
poet to look at the world/' 

"Ah, well, I did not say I share your catholic tastes!" 

"Come now, sir!" Timothy laughed. "Twas not in your sleep ye came 
here calling Susiel" 

Ebenezer made a small mumble of protest; he did not, on the one hand, 
care to let Timothy believe that the Laureate of Maryland shared his vicious 
lust for livestock, but on the other hand he was not prepared to reveal the 
true reason for his presence in the barn. 

"Thou'rt too much the gentleman to molest her now," Tim went on. 
Ebenezer heard him moving closer and retreated another step. 

"Twas all an error of judgment!" he cried, tingling with shame. "I can 
explain it all!" 

"Wherefore? D'ye think I mean to ruin your name, when ye have spared 
my Portia? Susan Warren told me all, and I bade her wait for ye; I'll lead ye 
straight to her, and ye may sport the night away." He caught up before 
Ebenezer could run and grasped his upper arm. 

"Tis more than kind," the Laureate said apprehensively, "but I've no 

wish to go at all. I really am a virgin, I sweart, for all my ill designs on 

Susan Warren; 'twas some sudden monstrous passion overcame me, that I 

am most ashamed of now." Again, and bitterly, he remembered his 

own ill treatment on the Poseidon. "Thank Heav'n I was delayed till 

prudence cooled my ardor, else I'd done myself and her an equal wrong!" 

"Then you really are a virgin yet?" Tim asked softly, tightening his grip 

on the poet's arm. "And ye still mean to remain one, come what may?" 

He spoke in a voice altogether different from the one he'd used until 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 349 ] 

then; it raised the Laureate's hackles, and so drained him with surprise that 
he could not speak. 

" Twas not easy to believe," the new voice added. 'That's why I said 
I'd take you to 'the swine-girl." 

"I cannot believe my ears!" the poet gasped. 

"Nor could I mine, when Mitchell told me of his dinner guesl Shall we 
trust our eyes any better?" 

He removed the lantern shade completely: in the yellow flare, which 
drew the slow attention of the swine, Ebenezer saw not the bearded, black- 
haired "Peter Sayer" Burlingame of Plymouththough this had been in- 
credible enough! but the well-dressed, smooth-shaven, periwigged tutor of 
St. Giles in the Fields and London. 



22: NO GROUND IS GAINED TOWARDS THE 
LAUREATE'S ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE, BUT NEITHER 
IS ANY LOST 



ONCE, OR TWICE, OR THRICE I AM DECEIVED?" THE POET EX- 

claimed. "Is't Burlingame that stands before me now, or was't Burlingame 
I left in Plymouth? Or are the twain of you impostors?" 

"The world's a happy climate for imposture," Burlingame admitted with 
a smile. 

"You were so much altered when I saw you last, and now you've altered 
back to what you were!" 

" Tis but to say what oft I've said to you ere now, Eben: your true and 
constant Burlingame lives only in your fancy, as doth the pointed order of 
the world. In fact you see a Heraclitean flux: whether 'tis we who shift 
and alter and dissolve; or you whose lens changes color, field, and focus; or 
both together. The upshot is the same, and you may take it or reject it." 

Ebenezer shook his head.. "In sooth you are the man I knew in London. 
Yet I cannot believe Peter Sayer was a fraud!" 

Burlingame shrugged, still holding the lantern. "Then say he hath 
shaved his hair and beard since then, as doth my version of the case, and 
no longer affects a tone of -voice like this! 9 He spoke these last words in 
the voice Ebenezer remembered from Plymouth. "If you'd live in the world, 



[ sec ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

my friend, you must dance to some other fellow's tune or call your own 
and try to make the whole world step to't" 

"That's why I'm loath to strike out on the floor" Ebenezer laughed 
"though I came very near to't this night." 

Henry laid his hand on the poet's shoulder. "I know the story, friend, 
and the whore hath fleeced you for the nonce. But I'll get your two pounds 
from her by and by." 

"No matter," the poet smiled ruefully. "'Twas but a worthless ring I 
gave her, and I bless the hour she foiled my lecherous plan." The mention 
of it recalled his friend's recent discourse in the dark, and he blushed and 
laughed again. " 'Twas for a tease you feigned that passion for a pig, and 
all the rest!" 

"Not a bit oft," Henry declared. "That is to say, I have no special love 
for her, but she is in sooth a tasty flitch, despite her age, and many's the 

.^_ 19 

time 

"Stay, you tease me yet!" 

"Think what you will," said Burlingame. "The fact is, Eben, I share your 
views on innocence/' 

So surprised and pleased was Ebenezer to hear this confession that he 
embraced his friend with both arms; but Burlingame's response was a move- 
ment so meaningful that the poet cried out in alarm and retreated at once, 
shocked and hurt. 

"What I mean to say," Henry continued pleasantly, "is that I too once 
clung to my virginity, and for the selfsame cause you speak of in your poem. 
Yet anon I lost it, and so committed me to the world; 'twas then I 
vowed, since I was fallen from grace, I would worship the Serpent that 
betrayed me, and ere I died would know the taste of every fruit the garden 
grows! How is't, d'you think, I made a conquest of a saint like Henry More? 
And splendid Newton, that I drove near mad with love? How did I get 
my post with Baltimore, and wrap good Francis Nicholson around my 
finger?" 

"'Sheart, you cannot mean they all are " 

"Nay," said Henry, anticipating the objection. "That is, they scarcely 
think so. But ere I was twenty I knew more of the world's passions than did 
Newton of its path in space. No end of experimenta lay behind me; I 
could have writ my own Principia of the flesh! When Newton set his weights 
and wires a-swing, did they know what forces moved them as he chose? No 
more than Newton knew, and Portia here to name no others what wires 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ JJ1 ] 

of nerve and amorous springs I triggered, to cause whate'er reaction I 
pleased." 

The Laureate was sufficiently astonished by these revelations so that be- 
fore he could assimilate them Henry changed the subject to one more ap- 
parently relevant: their separate crossings from Plymouth and their present 
positions. He had, he declared, successfully deceived Captains Slye and 
Scurry into believing that he was John Coode, and in that role had ac- 
companied them to Maryland, confirming in the process Coode's leadership 
of a sizable two-way smuggling operation: under the rebel's direction, 
numerous shipmasters ran Maryland tobacco duty-free to New York, for 
example, whence Dutch confederates marketed it illegally in Curagao, 
Surinam, or Newfoundland; or they would export it to the Barbados, where 
it was transferred from bogheads to innocent-looking boxes and smuggled 
into England; or they would run it directly to Scotland. On return trips they 
imported cargoes from foreign ports directly into Maryland by the simpler 
device of bribing the local collectors with barrels of rum and crates of scarce 
manufactured goods. 

" Tis in this wise/' he said, "Coode earns a large part of the money 
for his grand seditious plots, though he doubtless hath other revenues as 
well." He went on to assert that from all indications the conspirator planned 
a coup d'6tat, perhaps within a year; various of Slye's and Scurry's remarks 
left little doubt of that, though they gave no hint of the agency through 
which the overthrow was to be effected. 

"Then how is it thou'rt here and not on Nicholson's doorstep?" asked 
the Laureate. "We must inform him!" 

Burlingame shook his head. "We are not that certain of his own fidelity, 
Eben, for all his apparent honesty. In any case 'twould scarcely make him 
more alert for trouble than he is already. But let me finish." He told how 
he had surreptitiously disembarked from Slye and Scurry's ship at 
Kecoughtan, in Virginia, lest the real Coode be present at their landing 
in St. Mary's, and had crossed to Maryland in his present disguise or guise, 
if Ebenezer preferred only a few weeks ago. Inquiring after the Poseidon 
in St. Mary's, he had learned, to his horror, of the Laureate's abduction 
by pirates. 

" 'Sbody, how I did curse myself for not having sailed with you!" he 
exclaimed. "I could only presume the wretches had done you in, for one 
cause or another " 

"Prithee, Henry," Ebenezer interrupted, "was't you that posed as 
Laureate, somewhile after?" 



[252] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Burlingame nodded. "You must forgive me. Twas but your name I used, 
on a petition: I thought me how you'd died ere you had the chance to 
serve your cause, and how old Coode would rejoice to hear't. Then Nichol- 
son declared he meant to move the government from St. Mary's to Anne 
Arundel Town, to take the Papish taint off it, and some men in St. Mary's 
sent round a petition of protest. I saw Coode's name on't and so affixed 
yours as well, to confound him/* 

"Dear friend!" Tears came to Ebenezer's eyes. "That simple act was 
near the death of mel" 

Astonished, Burlingame asked how, but Ebenezer bade him conclude 
his narration, after which he would tell the story of his own eventful pas- 
sage from Plymouth to where they now sat in the straw. 

"There's little more to tell," Henry said. "They had put your trunk away 
against the time when 'twill go up for lawful sale, but I contrived to gain 
possession of your notebook " 

"Thank Heav'n!" 

"How many tears I shed upon your poems! I have't in the house this 
minute, but I little dreamed I'd ever see its owner again." 

While still in St. Mary's, he said, he heard that Coode had learned of 
the grand deception and was so enraged that he had barred Slye and Scurry 
from the lucrative smuggling run to punish them. In fact, fearful of traps 
set by the unknown spy, Coode had been obliged to suspend virtually all 
smuggling operations in the province for a while: His Majesty's tobacco 
revenues had seldom been so high. 

"I knew the blackguard must needs find some new income," Henry went 
on, "and so I followed him as close as e'er I could. In this wise I discovered 
Captain Mitchell: he is one of the chief est agents of sedition, and his house 
is oft the rebels' meeting place." 

"I'm not a whit surprised, from what I've heard," said Ebenezer, and 
then suddenly blanched. "But i'God, I gave him my name, and told him 
the entire story of my capture!" 

Burlingame shook his head in awe. "So he told me when I came in, 
and thou'rt the luckiest wight in all of Maryland, I swear. He thought the 
twain of you mad and took you in for his dinner guests' amusement. 
Tomorrow he'd have turned you out, and if he dreamed for a minute you 
were really Eben Cooke, 'twould be the death of you both, I'm certain." 

Returning to his story, he told of his investigation of Mitchell, which 
had produced two useful pieces of information: the man was instrumental 
in some sinister new scheme of Coode's, and he had one son, Timothy, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 353 ] 

whom he'd left behind in England four years previously to complete his 
education, and who was therefore unknown in Maryland. 

"I resolved at once to pose as Mitchell's son: I had seen his portrait 
hanging in the house, and 'twas not so far unlike me that four years of 
studious drinking couldn't account for the difference. E'en so, for prudence's 
sake, I forged Coode's name on a letter to Mitchell, which said Son Tim 
was now in Coode's employ and was coming home to do a job of work 
for's father. Tis e'er Coode's wont to send a cryptic order, and de'il the 
bit you question what it means! I followed close on the letter and declared 
myself Tim Mitchell, come from London. It mattered not a fart then 
whether the Captain believed me to be his son or Coode's agent: when 
he questioned me I smiled and turned away, and he questioned me no 
more. Yet what the plot is, I've yet to learn." 

"Mayhap it hath to do with opium," Ebenezer suggested, and to Bur- 
lingame's sharp look said in defense, " Twas what he ruined the swine-girl 
with, and murthered his wife as well." Briefly he recounted Susan Warren's 
tale, including the wondrous coincidence of Joan Toast's presence and 
Susan's noble sacrifice to save her. All through the little relation, however, 
Burlingame frowned and shook his head. 

"Is't aught short of miraculous?" the poet demanded. 

" Tis too much so," said Henry. "I've no wish to be o'erskeptical, Eben, 
or to dissapoint your hopes; the wench herself is ruined with opium, I 
grant, and it may be all she says is true as Scripture. But yonder by the 
river stands a pair of gravestones, side by side; the one's marked Pauline 
Mitchell and the other Elizabeth Williams. And I swear the name of Joan 
Toast hath not been mentioned in this house at least in my hearing. The 
only wench I've known him to woo is Susie Warren herself, that we all 
have had our sport with now and again. Nor haye I seen a phial of opium 
hereabouts, albeit he may well feed her privily. Methinks she heard of 
Joan Toast from your valet his tongue is loose enough. As for the rest, 
'twas but a tale to wring some silver from you; when it failed she feigned 
that sacrifice you spoke of, in hopes of doing better the second time. Didn't 
you say she was in the kitchen with your valet all through supper?" 

"So she was," Ebenezer admitted. "But it seems to me she " 

"Ah well," laughed Henry, "thou'rt no more gulled than Susan, in the 
last account, and if Joan Toast's here we'll find her. But tell me now of 
your own adventures: i'faith, you've aged five years since last I saw you!" 

"With cause enough," sighed Ebenezer, and though he was still preoc- 
cupied with thoughts of Joan Toast, he related as briefly as he could the 



[ 354 1 TBE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

tale of his encounter with Bertrand aboard the Poseidon, the loss of his 
money through the valet's gambling, his ill-treatment at the hands of the 
crew, and their capture by Thomas Pound. At every new disclosure Bur- 
lingame shook his head or murmured sympathy; at the mention of Pound 
he cried out in amazement not only at the coincidence, but also at the 
implication that Coode had enlisted the support of Governor Andros of 
Virginia, by whom Pound was employed to guard the coast. 

"And yet 'tis not so strange, at that," he said on second thought. "There's 
no love lost 'twixt Andros and Nicholson any more. But fancy you in 
Pound's clutches! Was that great black knave Boabdil still in his crew?" 

"First mate," the poet replied with a shudder. "Dear Heav'n, what 
horrors he wrought aboard the Cyprian! The very wench I spoke of, that 
I climbed to in the mizzen-rigging, he had near split like an oyster. How 
it pleased me that she gave the fiend a poxl" 

"You had near got one yourself," Burlingame reminded him soberly. 
"And not just once, but twice. Did ye see the rash on Susan Warren's skin?" 

"But you yourself " 

"Have had some sport with her," Henry finished. "But I know more 
sports than one to play with women." Awed, he rubbed his chin. "I have 
heard before of whore-ships, and thought 'twas a sailors' legend." 

Ebenezer went on to tell of the collusion between Pound and Captain 
Meech of the Poseidon, postponing mention of John Smith's secret diary 
until later, and concluded with the story of their execution, survival, and 
discovery of Drakepecker and Quassapelagh, the Anacostin King. 

"This is astounding!" Henry cried. "Your Drakepecker is an African 

slave, I doubt not, but this Quassapelagh D'you know who he is, 

Eben?" 

"A king of the Piscataways, he said." 

"Indeed so, and a disaffected one! Last June he murthered an English 
wight named Lysle and was placed in the charge of Colonel Warren,, in 
Charles County, that was still a loyal friend of Coode's. This Warren set 
the salvage free one night, for some queer cause or other, and was demoted 
f or't, but they never saw Quassapelagh after that. The story was that he's 
trying to inflame the Piscataways against Nicholson." 

" Twere a dreadful thing, if true," the Laureate said, "but I must vouch 
for the man himself, Henry; I would our Maryland planters had the half 
his nobility. Yet stay, tell me this ere I say another word: what have you 
learned of Sir Henry Burlingame, your ancestor?" 

Burlingame sighed. "No more than I knew in Plymouth. Do you recall 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR I 355 1 

I said the Journal was parceled out to sundry Papist Smiths? Well, the first 
of these was Richard Smith, right here in Calvert County, that is Lord 
Baltimore's surveyor general. As soon as I was established here and had re- 
vealed myself to Nicholson, I set out to collect the various portions,, so 
that Cobde and all his cohorts could be prosecuted. But when I reached 
Dick Smith and gave him the Governor's password " 

"He told you Coode had long since got his portion by some ruse," 
Ebenezer laughed. 

" Tis a thin joke, 'sheart! Dick Smith had tried to help some Papist 
friends of his by making 'em deputy surveyors, and after Governor Copley 
died, Coode saw his chance to raise a cry of Popery and turn Smith's 
property inside out. How did you hear of it?" 

Ebenezer withdrew from his pocket the few folded pages of the diary 
that remained to him. "How should I not learn something of intrigue 
myself, with such a marvelous tutor? You'll see naught here to read, but 
these are pages from the document you speak of." 

Burlingame snatched them eagerly and held them to the lamplight. "Ah, 
Christ!" he cried. "There's scarce a word preserved!" 

"Not of the Assembly Journal," Ebenezer agreed. He told how he had 
stolen the papers from Pound, to that gentleman's considerable dismay, 
and had carried them with him off the shallop's plank. " Tis Maryland's 
ill luck we've lost the evidence," he concluded, and laughed again at Bur- 
lingame's chagrin. "Cheer yourself, Henry! Do you think I'd keep such a 
prize two minutes ere I read the recto through?" 

"Praise God! You've learned to tease as well!" 

Without more ado r though the night was nearly done, Ebenezer de- 
scribed the secret history of Captain John Smith's voyage up the Chesapeake 
and narrated, with some embarrassment, the entire tale of Hicktopeake's 
voracious queen. 

"This is too excellent!" cried Henry at the end of it. "We know Sir 
Henry came alive with Smith from the town of Powhatan and went with 
him up the Bay. What's more, from all we've heard, each loathed the other 
and wished him ill, and there's no word of Burlingame in Smith's General! 
Historic d'you suppose Smith did him in?" 

"Let's hope not, till Sir Henry sired a son," Ebenezer said. "At best he 
could be no closer than a grandsire to yourself." He then recalled what 
Meech had proposed to Pound that if he were Baltimore he'd divide the 
Journal among several colleagues named Smith. "I'd have thought of it 



[ 556 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

sooner were I not near dead for want of sleep; belike Pound made no 
mention oft, Coode was so wroth with him/' 

"Or belike he did, to help redeem himself." Burlingame stood up and 
stretched. "In any case, we'd best go fetch the rest without delay. Let's 
sleep now for a while, and come morning we'll make our plans.' 7 

The Laureate's desire for sleep overcame his trepidations regarding Cap- 
tain Mitchell, and they returned through the slumbering house to the bed- 
chamber where he had so nearly lost his chastity some hours earlier. Ber- 
trand was not there. 

" 'Twas your Bertrand I saw first," Henry said, "and scarce believed my 
eyes! When he told me you were here I sent him off to sleep with our 
servants, so that you and I could talk in peace. In the morning he can 
go to St. Mary's in a wagon with one of our men and claim your trunk." 

"Aye, very good," Ebenezer said, but he had only half heard Henry's 
words. Not long before, in the barn, he had been oddly disturbed by his 
friend's mention of Bertrand, without quite knowing why; now he remem- 
bered what the valet had told him at their first encounter aboard the 
Poseidon, nearly half a year past: of the several meetings between valet 
and tutor not reported by Burlingame, and of Burlingame's liaison with 
Anna which latter memory, understandably, was most unpleasant in 
the light of what he had just learned about his friend's amorous practices. 

Burlingame set down the shaded lantern and began undressing for bed. 
"The wisest thing then would be to have him ferry the trunk right across 
the Bay to Maiden. 'Tis but a matter of " 

"Henry!" the Laureate broke in. 

"What is't? Why are you so alarmed?" He laughed. "Get on, now, 'tis not 
long till dawn." 

"Where is my commission from Lord Baltimore?" 

For a moment Burlingame looked startled; then he smiled. "So, your 
servant told you I have it?" 

"Nay," Ebenezer said sadly. "Only that I had it not." 

"Then doubtless he forgot to tell you 'twas from him I had to buy it," 
Henry said testily, "with a five-pound bribe, and merely to safeguard it 
till Maryland? How I wish old Slye and Scurry had caught the wretch while 
'twas still in his possession! Don't you understand, Eben? That paper was 
the warrant for its bearer's death! E'en so, your loyal valet made him a 
fair copy, telling me 'twas but to boast of in London I little dreamed he'd 
steal your place on the Poseidonl" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 357] 

He laid his hand on the poet's arm. "Dear boy, 'tis late in the day for 
quarrels/ 7 

But Ebenezer drew away. "Where is the paper hidden?" 

Burlingame sighed and climbed into the bed. "In the ocean off Bermuda, 
forty fathoms deep." 

"Whalf 

"Twas the one time Slye and Scurry played me false. I heard them 
plotting to search my cabin for jewels, that they thought the king of France 
had given Coode; I had one hour to draw up papers with Coode's name 
and throw away all others. Nay, don't look so forlorn! I've long since 
writ you out another, in hopes you were alive." 

"But how can you " 

"As his Lordship's agent in such matters," said Burlingame. He got out 
of bed and with a key from his trousers' pocket unlocked a small chest 
in one corner of the room. With the aid of the lantern he selected one 
from a number of papers in the chest and presented it for Ebenezer's 
inspection. "Doth it please you?" 

"Why 'tis the original! Thou'rt teasing me!" 

Burlingame shook his head. " Tis two weeks old at most; I could do 
its like again in five minutes," 

"I'faith, then, thou'rt the world's best forger of hands!" 

"Haply I am, but you do me too much honor in this instance." He 
smiled: "'Twas I that penned the original." 

"Not so!" cried the poet. "I saw it penned myself!" 

Henry nodded, "I well remember. You fooled and fiddled with the rib- 
bons on your scabbard and had like to piss for very joy." 

" Twas Baltimore himself " 

"You have never seen Charles Calvert," Burlingame said. "Nor hath any 
stranger lately who comes uncalled for to his door: 'twas one of my duties 
then to greet such folk and sound them out. When you were announced 
I begged his lordship to let me disguise myself as him, as was my wont 
with uncertain guests. 'Twas but a matter of powdering my beard and feign- 
ing stiffness in the joints " He altered his voice to sound exactly like 

the one that had narrated to Ebenezer the history of the Province. "The 
voice and hand were childs play to mimic." 

Ebenezer could not contain his disappointment; his eyes watered. 

"Ah, now, what doth it matter?" Burlingame sat beside him on the bed 
and placed an arm across his shoulders. " Twas for the same reason I posed 
as Peter Sayer for a while: to feel you out. Besides, Baltimore heard and 



[ 358 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

seconded all I said. Your commission hath his entire blessing, I swear." 
He gave Ebenezer a squeeze. 

"Tell me truly, Henry," the Laureate demanded, moving clear. "What 
is your relationship with Anna?" 

"Ah, friend Bertrand again," Burlingame said calmly. "What do you 
think it to be, Eben?" 

"I think thou'rt secretly in love with her," Ebenezer accused. 

"Thou'rt in error^ then, for there's nothing secret in't." 

"No trysts or secret meetings? No sweetmeats and honeybees? 79 

"Dear friend, control yourselfl" Henry said firmly. ''Your sister doth 
me the honor of returning my regard and hath the good sense not to in- 
vite her brother's and her father's wrath in consequence. As for me, I love 
her in the same way I love you no more, no less." 

"Aye, and what way is that?" the poet asked. "Must we not add Portia to 
the list and Dolly at the King o' the Seas, and Henry More, and the barky 
boles of trees? Why did my father cashier you at St. Giles?" 

'Thou'rt overwrought," said Burlingame, still seated on the bed. Let me 
calm you." 

Tears streamed down Ebenezer's cheeks. "Son of Sodom!" he cried, 
and sprang upon his tutor. "You've had my sister's maidenhead and now 
you lust for mine!" 

Though both height and initiative were on his side, the Laureate was 
no match for Burlingame, who was somewhat heavier, a good deal more 
co-ordinated, and infinitely more practiced in the arts of combat: in 
less than a minute he had Ebenezer pinned face down on the bed, his 
arm twisted up behind his back. 

"The truth is, Eben," he declared, "I have yearned to have the twain of 
you since you were twelve, so much I loved you, 'Twas some inkling of 
this love enraged old Andrew, and he cashiered me. But on my oath, your 
sister is a virgin yet for all of me. As for yourself, d'you think I could not 
force you now, if I so chose? Yet I do not, and would not; rape hath its joys, 
but they are not worth your friendship, or your sister's love." 

He released his grip and lay down, turning his back to Ebenezer. The 
poet, stricken by what he'd learned, made no move to renew the attack 
or even to change his position. 

^ 'Whatever could come of a love 'twixt me and Anna?" Burlingame asked. 
"I have nor wealth, nor place, nor even parentage. D'you think I'd waste 
my seed on sows, if I could sow a child in Anna Cooke? D'you think I'd 
flit about the world, if I could take her to wife? Methinks your friend Me- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [359] 

Evoy spoke the truth, Eben: you know naught of the great real world!" 
The Laureate, in fact, at once felt sorry for his friend's predicament, 
but because he wasn't sure to what extent he ought to be outraged, and 
because what the disclosures concerning Anna and Lord Baltimore really 
made him feel was a sort of bitter melancholy, neither his sympathy nor 
his anger found a voice. He did not see how, in the light of all this, 
he could endure ever to face Burlingame again, much less sleep in the 
same bed with him. What could they say to each other now? He felt 
unspeakably deceived and put upon a by no means wholly unpleasurable 
feeling. Face buried in the pillow and eyes wet with pity for himself, he 
recalled one of the wonderful dreams he had dreamed while senseless in 
the Poseidon's foVsle: Burlingame and Anna side by side at the vessel's 
rail, waving to him where he swam in the flat, green, tepid sea. So stirring 
was the vision that he gave himself over to it entirely; closed his eyes, and 
let the sea wash warmly by his loins and hams. 



23: IN HIS EFFORTS TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF 
THINGS THE LAUREATE COMES WITHIN SIGHT OF 
MALDEN, BUT SO FAR FROM ARRIVING THERE, 
NEARLY FALLS INTO THE STARS 



IT WAS ALREADY WELL INTO THE MORNING WHEN THE LAUREATE AWOKE: 

the thin fall sunshine struck his eyelids, and he was mortified to under- 
stand that for the first time since early childhood he had wet the bed. 
He dared not move, for fear of waking Burlingame and discovering his 
shame. How to conceal it? He considered accidentally spilling the water 
pitcher onto the bed, but rejected the scheme as insufficiently convincing. 
The only other alternative was to absent himself stealthily from the prem- 
ises, since he could not in any case have further dealings with his friend, and 
to strike out on his own for Maiden before anyone was awake; but he 
lacked the daring for such a move in the first place, and also had no way 
of securing food and transportation for himself and Bertrand. 

While considering and rejecting these courses of action he fell asleep 
again, and this time it was mid-morning when he woke. Burlingame, in 
the interval, had donned his clothes and left, and on the table with the 
pitcher and bowl were a piece of soap, a razor, a complete outfit of gentle- 



[ 560 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

man's clothing, including shoes, hat, and sword, and-wonder of wonders 
the ledger-book acquired from Ben Bragg at the Sign of the Raven! 
The Laureate rejoiced to behold the gift, and for all his shock and disap- 
pointment of the night just past, he could not but feel a certain warmth 
for his benefactor. He sprang out of bed, stripped off the clammy, vermin- 
ous rags he'd worn day and night since his capture by the pirates, and 
scrubbed himself ferociously from top to toe. Then, before shaving, he could 
not resist rereading the poems in his notebook especially the hymn to 
chastity, which, whether Susan Warren had been lying or not, was given 
a heightened significance by her mention of Joan Toast and by the 
Laureate's late adventure. As he shaved he repeated the stanzas over and 
over, with a growing sense of physical and spiritual well-being. It was a 
splendid morning for rededication high and clear and fresh as April, de- 
spite the season. Off came the beard and on went the clothes, which if not 
a tailored fit were at least of good quality; except for his sunburned face 
and hands and his somewhat shaggy hair, he looked and felt more like a 
Laureate when he was done than he had at any time since leaving London. 
He could scarcely wait to set out for Maiden, more particularly since Joan 
Toast might well be waiting there for him! 

Now his blond brows contracted, and his features ticked and twitched: 
there remained still the problem of passing safely out of Captain Mitchell's 
clutches and of deciding on an attitude toward Burlingame. The first 
seemed infinitely simpler than the second, which was complicated not only 
by his uncertainty about how he should react to his friend's disclosures, 
but also by his embarrassment at wetting the bed, which childishness Henry 
had almost surely observed, and his gratitude for the gift of clothing. In 
fact, the more he considered possible attitudes to adopt, the more perplex- 
ing seemed the problem, and he ended by returning to the window sill 
and staring distractedly at the twin gravestones down by the riverbank. 

After a while he heard someone mount the stairs^ and Henry himself 
thrust his head into the chamber. 

"Shake a leg, there, Master Laureate, or you'll miss your breakfast! Hi, 
what a St. Paul's courtier!" 

Ebenezer blushed. "Henry, I must confess " 

"Sfcftft," warned Burlingame. "The name is Timothy Mitchell, sir." He 
entered the room and closed the door. "They're waiting belowstairs, so 
I must speak quickly. I've sent your man off to fetch your trunk in St. 
Mary's: he'll get to Maiden before us and make things ready for you. 
Hark, now: there is an Edward Cooke in Dorchester County, a drunken 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 361 ] 

cuckold of a sot-weed planter; two years ago he complained of his wife's 
adulteries in a petition to Governor Copley and was the butt of so much 
teasing that he hath drowned himself in drink. I have told Bill Mitchell 
thou'rt this same poor wretch, that in your cups are given to playing the 
Laureate, and he believes me. Act sober and shamed this morning, and 
there's naught to fear. Make haste, nowl" 

And without allowing the poet time to protest, Henry led him by the 
arm toward the stairs, still talking in an urgent, quiet voice: 

"Your friend the swine-girl hath flown the coop, and Mitchell declares 
shell make her way to Cambridge with the silver he thinks you gave her. 
I'm to take horse at once to find and to fetch her; what you must do 
is beg his pardon and volunteer to aid me in the search by way of making 
good your sins. We can fetch the rest of the Journal on our way to Maiden, 
and Til deliver it to Nicholson when I return." They approached the dining- 
room. " 'Sheart, now, don't forget: I'm Tim Mitchell and thou'rt Edward 
Cooke of Dorset/' 

Ebenezer had no opportunity either to assent to or protest the course 
of events: he found himself propelled into the dining-room, where Captain 
Mitchell and a few of the previous evening's guests were breakfasting on 
rum and a meat identified by Burlingame as broiled rasher of infant bear. 
They regarded Ebenezer, some with amusement and others with a certain 
rancor, which, however, observing that he was Timothy's friend, they did 
not express overtly. When the two new arrivals were seated and served, 
Burlingame announced to the group what he had already told Mitchell 
that their distinguished visitor was not Ebenezer Cooke the poet, but Ed- 
ward Cooke the cuckold. The news occasioned some minutes of ribaldry, 
following which Ebenezer made a pretty speech of apology for his imposture 
and other unseemly deportment, and volunteered to aid Timothy in his 
search for the fugitive servant. 

"As't please ye," Captain Mitchell grumbled, and gave some last in- 
structions to Burlingame: "Look ye well on old Ben Spurdance's place, 
Timmy. 'Tis a den o' thieves and whores, and belike 'tis there she's flown 
again. She aims to join her sister puddletrotters now that Cambridge court 
is sitting." 

"That I shall," smiled Burlingame. 

"Take care ye don't dally by the way, and fetch Miss Susan hither 
within the week, for I've a word to say to her. I'll have an end to her 
drunkenness and leave-takings, by Heav'n! Every simpleton that comes 
through pays her two pounds for a squint at her backside and swallows 



[ 362 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

her cock-and-bull story into the bargain, and 'tis I must bear the cost o* 
fetching her home againl" 

As he spoke he glared at Ebenezer so accusingly that the poet turned 
crimson, to the merriment of the other guests, and offered further to bear 
the charge of Timothy's expedition. He was happy enough to leave the 
table when the lengthy breakfast was finally done, although he could not 
contemplate with pleasure the prospect of setting out for the Eastern Shore 
with Burlingame. Once on the road, alone with him, it would be necessary 
to come to some sort of terms with the problem put in abeyance by the 
urgency of their first encounter that morning: what their future relation- 
ship was to be. That it could remain what it had been thitherto, and the 
revelations of the night before go undiscussed, was unthinkable! 

Yet when near noontime they set out on their journey Ebenezer riding 
an ancient roan mare of Captain Mitchell's and Burlingame a frisky three- 
year-old gelding of his own he could think of no gambit for initiating the 
discussion that he was courageous enough to use, and Burlingame showed 
no inclination to speak of anything less impersonal than the unseasonably 
warm day (which he said was called "Indian summer" by the colonials), 
the occasional planters or Indians whom they encountered on the road, 
and the purpose of their route. 

"Calvert County is just across the Chesapeake from Dorset/' he explained, 
as cheerfully as if there were no problem between theni at all. "If we Bailed 
due east from here we'd land very near Cooke's Point. But what we'll do 
is sail a bit northeastwards to Tom Smith's place in Talbot, just above 
Dorchester; he's the wight that hath the next piece of the Journal." 

"Whate'er you think best," Ebenezer replied, and despite his wish to 
get matters out in the open, he found himself talking instead about Susan 
Warren, to whom, he declared, he was grateful for breaking her pledge 
to him, and whose flight to her father he pleaded with Burlingame not to 
intercept. Burlingame agreed not to search for the swine-girl at all, and 
changed the subject to something equally remote from what most occupied 
the poet's mind. Thus they rode for two or three hours into the afternoon, 
their horses gaited to a leisurely walk, and with every new idle exchange 
of remarks it became increasingly difficult, for Ebenezer to broach the 
subject, until by the time they reached their most immediate destination 
a boatlanding on the Chesapeake Bay side of Calvert County he re- 
alized that to introduce the matter now would make him appear ridicu- 
lous, and with a sigh he vowed to have it out with his former tutor first 
thing next morning, if not at bedtime that very night 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 363 ] 

Burlingame hired a pinnace to ferry them and their animals to Talbot, 
and they made the ten-mile crossing without incident. As they entered the 
wide mouth of the Choptank River, which divides the counties of Talbot 
and Dorchester, Burlingame pointed to a wooded neck of land nearly two 
miles off to starboard and said, "If I not be far wide of the mark, friend, 
that point o'er yonder is your own Cooke's Point, and Maiden stands some- 
where among those trees/' 

"Dear Heav'n!" cried Ebenezer. "You didn't say we would pass so near! 
Pray land me there now and join me when your work is done!" 

" Twould be twice imprudent," Henry replied. "For one thing, thou'rt 
not yet accustomed to dealing with provincial types, as I am; for another, 
'twere unseemly that their Lord and Laureate should arrive alone and un- 
escorted, don't you think?" 

"Then you must come with me, Henry/' Ebenezer pleaded, and the 
certain surliness in his voice, which throughout the day had been the only 
token of his psychic tribulation, finally disappeared. "You can get the 
Journal later, can you not?" 

But Burlingame shook his head. "That were no less imprudent, Eben. 
There are two pieces of the Journal yet to find: the one with Tom Smith in 
Talbot, the other with a William Smith in Dorset. Tom Smith I know by 
sight, and where he lives; we can get his part tomorrow and be off to 
Cambridge. Put this William Smith of Dorset is an entire stranger to me: 
in the time 'twill take to find him, Coode could kill and rob the twain. 
Besides, in Oxford, where we'll land, there is a barber that shall trim your 
hair or shave you for a periwig, at my expense." 

To such reason and graciousness Ebenezer could offer no objection, 
though his heart sank as they dropped Cooke's Point astern and turned 
north up the smaller Tred Avon River to a village called variously Oxford, 
Thread Haven, and Williamstadt. There they disembarked and paid calls 
first on the promised barber whom Ebenezer on a comradely impulse 
directed to trim his natural hair in the manner of the Province rather than 
shave it for a periwig and then to an inn near the wharf, where they dined 
on cold roast mallard and beer, also at Burlingame's expense. Assuming 
that they would sleep there as well, the Laureate vowed to review the 
whole question of Henry's relations with Anna as soon as they retired for 
the night, in order to determine once and for all how he should feel about 
it; but Henry himself frustrated this resolve by declaring,, after supper, that 
sufficient daylight remained for them to reach the house of Thomas Smith, 



[ 564 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

which lay only five or six miles out of Oxford, and proposing that they 
lose no time in laying hands upon his portion of the Journal. 

"Tor I swear," he said, wiping his mouth upon his coat sleeve, "so damn- 
ing is this evidence for Coode, he'll stop at naught to get it, nor scoff at 
any hint of its location. Let's begone." He rose from the table and started 
for the horses; not until he was halfway to the door did he look back to 
see that Ebenezer, instead of following after, still sat before his empty 
plate, wincing and sighing and ticking his tongue. 

"Ah, then," he said, coming back,, "thou'rt distraught. Is't that you came 
so near your estate and did not reach it?" 

Ebenezer shook his head in a manner not clearly either affirmative 
or negative. "That is but a part oft, Henry; you go at such a pace, I have 
no time to think things through as they deserve! I cannot collect my wits 
e'en to think of all the questions I would ask, much less explore your an- 
swers. How can I know what I must do and where I stand?" 

Burlingame laid his arm across the poet's shoulders and smiled. "What 
is't you describe, my friend, if not man's lot? He is by mindless lust 
engendered and by mindless wrench expelled, from the Eden of the womb 
to the motley, mindless world. He is Chance's fool, the toy of aimless 
Nature a mayfly flitting down the winds of Chaos!" 

"You mistake my meaning," Ebenezer said, lowering his eyes. 

Burlingame was undaunted: his eyes glittered. "Not by much, methinks. 
Once long ago we sat like this, at an inn near Magdalene College do 
you remember? And I said, 'Here we sit upon a blind rock hurtling through 
a vacuum, racing to the grave/ 'Tis our fate to search, Eben, and do we seek 
our $oul> what we find is a piece of that same black Cosmos whence we 
sprang and through which we fall: the infinite wind of space . . ." 

In fact a night wind had sprung up and was buffeting the inn. Ebenezer 
shivered and clutched the edge of the table. "But there is so much un- 
answered and unresolved! It dizzies me!" 

"Many!" laughed Henry. "If you saw it clear enough 'twould not dizzy 
you: 'twould drive you mad! This inn here seems a little isle in a sea of 
madness, doth it not? Blind Nature howls without, but here 'tis calm- 
how dare we leave? Yet lookee round you at these men that dine and 
play at cards, as if the sky were their mother's womb! They remind me of the 
chickens I once saw fed to a giant snake in Africa: when the snake struck 
one the others squawked and fluttered, but a moment after they were 
scratching about for corn, or standing on his very back to preen their 
feathers! How is't these men don't run a-gibbering down the streets, if not 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 365 ] 

that their minds are lulled to sleep?" He pressed the poet's arm. "You know 
as well as I that human work can be magnificent; but in the face of 
what's out yonder" he gestured skywards " 'tis the industry of Bed- 
lam! Which sees the state of things more clearly: the cock that preens 
on the python's back, or the lunatic that trembles in his cell?" 

Ebenezer sighed. "Yet I fail to see the relevance of this; Tis not germane 
at all to what I had " 

"Not germane?" Burlingame exclaimed. "'Tis the very root and stem 
oft! Two things alone can save a man from madness." He indicated the 
other patrons of the inn. "Dull-headedness is one, and far the commoner: 
the truth that drives men mad must be sought for ere it's found, and it 
eludes the doltish or myopic hunter. But once 'tis caught and looked on, 
whether by insight or instruction, the captor's sole expedient is to force 
his will upon't ere it work his ruin! Why is't you set such store by innocence 
and rhyming, and I by searching out my father and battling Coode? One 
must needs make and seize his soul, and then cleave fast to't, or go babbling 
in the corner; one must choose his gods and devils on the run, quill his own 
name upon the universe, and declare, ' 'Tis I, and the world stands such-a- 
way!' One must assert, assert, assert, or go screaming mad. What other 
course remains?" 

"One other," Ebenezer said with a blush. " 'Tis the one I flee . . ." 

"What? Ah, 'sheart, indeed! The state I found you in at college! How 
many have I seen like that in Bedlam wide-eyed, feculent, and blind to 
the world! Some boil their life into a single gesture and repeat it o'er 
and o'er, others are so far transfixed, their limbs remain where'er you place 
'em, still others take on false identities: Alexander, or the Pope in Rome, 
or e'en the Poet Laureate of Maryland " 

Ebenezer looked up, uncertain whether it was he or the impostors whom 
Burlingame referred to. 

"The upshot oft is," his friend concluded, "if you'd escape that fate 
you must embrace me or reject me, and the course we are committed to, 
despite the shifting lights that we appear in, just as you must embrace your 
Self as Poet and Virgin, regardless, or discard it for something better." He 
stood up. "In either case don't seek whole understanding the search were 
fruitless, and there is no time for't. Will you come with me now, or stay?" 

Ebenezer frowned and squinted. "I'll come," he said finally, and went 
out with Burlingame to the horses. The night was wild, but not unpleasant: 
a warm, damp wind roared out of the southwest, churned the river to a 



[ 366 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

froth, bent the pines like whips, and drove a scud across the stars. Both 
men looked up at the splendid sight. 

"Forget the word sky" Burlingame said off-handedly, swinging up on 
his gelding, "'tis a blinder to your eyes. There is no dome of heaven 
yonder." 

Ebenezer blinked twice or thrice: with the aid of these instructions, for 
the first time in his life he saw the night sky. The stars were no longer 
points on a black hemisphere that hung like a sheltering roof above 
his head; the relationship between them he saw now in three dimen- 
sions, of which the one most deeply felt was depth. The length and 
breadth of space between the stars seemed trifling by comparison: what 
struck him now was that some were nearer, others farther out, and others 
unimaginably remote. Viewed in this manner, the constellations lost their 
sense entirely; their spurious character revealed itself, as did the false pre- 
supposition of the celestial navigator, and Ebenezer felt bereft of orienta- 
tion. He could no longer think of up and down: the stars were simply out 
there, as well below him as above, and the wind appeared to howl not 
from the Bay but from the firmament itself, from the endless corridors 
of space. 

"Madness!" Henry whispered. 

Ebenezer's .stomach churned; he swayed in the saddle and covered his 
eyes. For a swooning moment before he turned away it seemed that he 
was heels over head on the bottom of the planet, looking down on the 
stars instead of up, and that only by dint of clutching his legs about the 
roan mare's girth and holding fast to the saddlebow with both his hands 
did he keep from dropping headlong into those vasty reaches! 



24: THE TRAVELERS HEAR ABOUT THE SINGULAR 
MARTYRDOM OF FATHER JOSEPH FITZMAURICE, S.J.: 
A TALE LESS RELEVANT IN APPEARANCE THAN IT WILL 
PROVE IN FACT 



IT REQUIRED LESS THAN AN HOUR'S WINDY RIDE FOR EBENEZER AND HENRY 

Burlingame to reach their destination; they traveled four miles eastward 
from the village of Oxford and then turned south for a mile or so along 
a path leading through woods and tobacco-fields to a small log dwelling 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 367 } 

on Island Creek, which, like the larger Tred Avon River, debouched into 
the Great Choptank. 

" 'Tis an uncommon fellow you'll meet here," Burlingame said as they 
approached. "He is a kind of Coode himself, but on the side of the angels. 
A valuable man/* 

"Thomas Smith?" asked Ebenezer. "I don't believe Charles Calvert told 

me aught " He stopped and grimaced. "That is to say, I have ne'er 

heard tell of him." 

"Nay/' laughed Henry, "I haply made no mention of him. He is a 
Jesuit to the marrow, and so 'tis certain Thomas Smith is not his real 
name. But for all that, he's a great good fellow that loves his beer and 
horses. Each Friday night he hath a drinking bout with Lillingstone the 
minister (the same that helped me steal Coode's letters two years past, 
in Plymouth harbor); 'twas after one such bout they rode a horse into 
Talbot courthouse and called it Lambeth Palace! Some say this Smith came 
down from Canada to spy for the French " 

"I'faith, and Baltimore trusts him with the Journal?" 

Burlingame shrugged. "They have loyalties larger than France and Eng- 
land, I daresay. At any rate 'tis precious little spying Smith can do herea- 
bouts, and we've ample demonstrations of his spirit: last year he was 
charged by Governor Copley with seditious speech, along with Colonel 
Sayer, and barely missed arrest." 

The term larger loyalties Ebenezer found disquieting, but he was still too 
much preoccupied with his own problems to ask Burlingame whether it 
was the cause of Justice or, say, international Roman Catholicism that he 
referred to. They tethered their horses, and Burlingame rapped three times, 
slowly and sharply, on the cabin door. 

"Yes? Who is't there?" 

"Tim Mitchell, friend," said Burlingame. 

"Tim Mitchell, is't? I've heard that name." The door opened enough to 
permit the man inside to raise a lantern, but was still chained fast to the 
jamb. "What might you want o' me this time of night?" 

"I'm fetching a stray horse to her master," Burlingame replied, winking 
at Ebenezer. 

"Is that so, now? Tis a deal o' trouble for a small reward, is't not?" 

"I'll have my reckoning in Heaven, Father; for the nonce 'twill suffice 
me that the man shall have his mare again." 

Ebenezer had supposed that Burlingame was, for reasons of delicacy. 



[ 368 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

speaking allegorically of Susan Warren's escape, but at the end he recog- 
nized the pass phrase of the Jacobites. 

"Ha!" cried the man inside, unlatching the door and swinging it wide. 
"He shall in sooth, if the Society of Jesus hath not wholly lost its skill! 
Come in, sir, pray come in! I'd not have been so chary if there were not 
two of you." 

Their host, Ebenezer found upon entering the cabin, was by no means 
as fearsome as his deep-bass voice and the tale of his exploits suggested: 
he stood not much over five feet tall; his build was slight, and his ruddy 
fac^-more Teutonic than Gallic above his clerical collar had, despite his 
nearly fifty years, the boyish look that often marks the celibate. The cabin 
itself was clean and, except for a wine bottle on the table and a row of 
little casks along the chimneypiece, as austerely furnished as a monk's 
cell For all his carousing, the priest appeared to be something of a scholar: 
the walls were lined with more books than the Laureate had seen in one 
room since leaving Magdalene, and around the wine bottle were spread 
other books, copious papers, and writing equipment. 

"This young man is Mr. Eben Cooke, from London." Burlingame said. 
"He is a poet and a friend of mine." 

"Indeed, a poet!" Smith shook Ebenezer's hand vigorously. He had the 
habit doubtless due in part to his small stature, but suggestive as well of 
a certain effeminacy of rising on his toes and widening his clear blue 
eyes when he spoke. "How uncommonly delightful,, sir! And doth he rhyme 
ad majorem Dei gloriam, as he ought?" 

Ebenezer could think of no properly witty rejoinder to this tease, but 
Burlingame said, "'Tis more ad majorem Baltimorensi gtoriam, Father: 
he hath the post of Maryland Laureate from Charles Calvert." 

"Better and better!" 

"As for his loyalty, have no fear oft." 

The priest let go a booming laugh. "I shan't now, Mr. Mitchell; that 
I shan't, for Satan himself hath his fiendish loyalties! 'Tis the object oft 
I fear, sir, not its presence!" 

Burlingame urged him to calm his fears, but when he declared the pur- 
pose of their visit, producing authorization from Governor Nicholson to 
collect the precious papers, the Jesuit's face showed still some reservation. 
"I have my piece o' the Journal hidden, right; enough," he said, "and I 
know you for an agent of our cause. But what proof have we of your 
friend's fidelity?" 

"Methinks my post were proof enough," Ebenezer said. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 369 ] 

"Of allegiance, aye, but not fidelity. Would you die to advance our cause?" 

"He hath come near to that already," Burlingame said, and told their 
host briefly of the Laureate's adventure with the pirates. 

"The saintly look is on him, that I'll grant/' said the priest. "Tis but 
a question of what cause he'll be a martyr to, I suppose." 

Ebenezer laughed uncomfortably. "Then I'll confess I would not die 
for Lord Baltimore, much as I favor his cause and loathe John Coode's." 

The priest raised his eyebrows. Burlingame said at once, "Now there's 
a proper answer, sir: a martyr hath his uses when he's dead, but alive he's 
oft a nuisance to his cause." He assumed a tone of raillery. "That is the 
reason why there are no Jesuit martyrs." 

"In sooth it is,, though we can claim one or two. But nom de Dieu, for- 
give my rudeness! Sit down and have some wine!" He waved them to the 
table and set about clearing it of papers. "Correspondence from the Society," 
he explained, observing Ebenezer's curiosity, and showed them some pages 
of finely-written Latin script. "I dabble in ecclesiastical history, and just 
now am writing a relation of the Jesuit mission in Maryland, from 1634 
to the present day. 'Tis a sixty-year Iliad in itself, I swear, and the fortress 
hath yet to fall!" 

"How very interesting," Ebenezer murmured. He was aware that his 
earlier blundering remark had been ill-taken, and looked for a way to 
atone for it. 

The priest fetched two extra glasses from the sideboard and poured a 
round of wine from the bottle on the table. "Jerez, from the dusty vine- 
yards of Cadiz." He held his glass to the candlelight. "Judas, see how 
clear! If Oporto is the blood o' Jesus, then here's the very ichor of the Spiritu 
sancti. To your health, sirs." 

When the toast was drunk, Burlingame said, "And now, Father, if thou'rt 
quite persuaded of our loyalty " 

"Yes, yes indeed," the priest said, but poured another round and made 
no move to get any hidden documents. Instead he shuffled through his 
papers again, as though preoccupied with them, and said, "The fact of the 
matter is, the first martyr in America was a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph 
FitzMaurice 'tis his unknown history I've pieced together here." 

Ebenezer pretended to be much impressed, and said by way of further 
pleasing their host, "You'd think the Society of Jesus would lead the field 
in saints and martyrs, would you not? The saint and the citizen may share 
the selfsame moral principles, but your ordinary man will compromise and 
contradict 'em at every turn, while your saint will follow them through 



[ 370 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the very door of death. What I mean, the normal state of man is irrational, 
and by how much the Jesuits are known for great logicians, by so much 
do they approach the condition of saintliness." 

"Would Heav'n that argument were sound!" The priest smiled ruefully, 
"But any proper Jesuit can show you 'tis equivocal. You confuse rational 
with reasonable, for one thing, and the preachment with the practice foi 
another. The sad fact is, we are the most reasonable of orders- which is 
to say, we oft will compromise our principles to reach our goal, and justify 
means by end, as no saint or martyr would. This holy man FitzMaurice, 

for example " 

"He is with the blessed, I'm sure," Burlingame broke in, "but ere we 

hear his story, could we not just have a look at " 

"Nay, nay, there's no great rush," Ebenezer protested, interrupting in 
turn. "We have all night to fetch the Journal, now we're here, and I for 
one would greatly like to hear the tale. Haply 'twill be worth mention in 
my Marylandiad" He ignored the disgusted look of his friend, whose eager- 
ness he thought was antagonizing their host. "What was the manner of 
the fellow's death?" 

The priest regarded them both with a thoughtful smile. "The truth is, 
Father FitzMaurice was burnt as a heretic in a proper auto-da-f 6." 
"You don't tell me!" 

Father Smith nodded. "I learned his story in part from the mission 
records at the Vatican and in part from enquiries made among the Indians 
hereabouts; the rest I can supply from rumor and conjecture. 'Tis a touch- 
ing tale, methinks, and shows both the strengths and weaknesses of saint- 
hood, whereof Mr. Mitchell hath made mention." 

"A Jesuit inquisitioned and burnt! Out on't, Father, I must hear it 
from first to last." 

It was quite late in the evening by now, and the wind still whistled 
around the eaves of the cabin. Ebenezer 'accepted a pipe of tobacco from 
his host, lit it from the candle flame, and settled back with a great show of 
comfort; but the effect of his diplomacy was doubtless nullified by Burlin- 
game, who drank off his wine and poured another glassful without waiting 
to be invited, and who made no attempt to conceal his disapproval of the 
progress of events. 

Father Smith lit a pipe himself and ignored his guest's unseemly con- 
duct. "In the records of the Society of Jesus in Rome," he began, "one 
can find all the annual letters of the mission in Maryland. Two priests 
and a coadjutor came hither in the Ark and the Dove with the first colonists, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 371 ] 

and another priest and coadjutor followed ere the year was done. In the 

very first annual letter to Rome " He fished through the stack of papers 

before him. "Aye, here's my copy. We read: Two priests of Ours were 
assigned this year as companions to a certain gentleman -who went to 
explore unknown lands. They with great courage performed an uncomfort- 
able voyage of about eight months, both much shaken in health, with spells 
of illness, and gave us no slight hope of reaping ultimately an abundant 
harvest, in ample and excellent regions!' 

"Is't Maryland they speak of?" Ebenezer asked. "Why don't they use 
their patron's name? 'Twas a bit ungrateful, don't you think?" He remem- 
bered hearing Charles Calvert or, rather, Burlingame in disguise describe 
the difficulties Governor Leonard Calvert had had with these same early 
Jesuits. 

"Not at all," the priest assured him. "They knew well old Cecil Calvert 
was a proper Catholic at heart, if something too liberal-minded, but 'twas 
necessary to use great caution in all things, inasmuch as the forces of anti- 
christ were e'en more in ascendancy then than now, and the Jesuits lived 
in constant peril. It was their wont to travel incognito, or with an alias, 
and refer to their benefactors with coded epithets such as a certain gentle- 
man, 01 a certain Catholic baron. The certain gentleman here was George 
Calvert not the first Lord Baltimore, but the brother of Cecilius and 
Leonard. In the same way, Baltimore himself gave out that Maryland was 
called after Queen Henrietta Maria, albeit 'tis named in fact for the Queen 
of Heaven, as surely as is St. Mary's City." 

"Nay, can that be?" Ebenezer was not a little troubled by all this asso- 
ciation of the Baltimores with the Jesuits, which brought to his mind the 
dark plots Bertrand had believed in. "I understood 'twas King Charles 

called it Maryland, after Baltimore had proposed the name " He 

turned to Burlingame, who was staring thoughtfully into the fireplace. 
"What was the name, Henry? It slips my mind." 

"Crescentia" Burlingame replied, and added: "Whether 'twas meant to 
signify the holy lunar crescent of Mohammed or the carnal crescent sacred 
to Priapus is a matter still much argued by the scholars." 

"Ah, Henry!" Ebenezer blushed for his friend's rudeness. "I remember 
now," he said to Father Smith, " 'twas called for some Roman slave or 
other." 

"No matter," the priest said indulgently. "In any case 'twas but a piece 
of courtliness on Calvert's part to give out that he had chosen the King's 
suggestion o'er his own." 



[ 72 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Then pray let's go on with the tale, sir, and I'll not interrupt you 
farther." 

Father Smith replaced the letter on the pile. "The two priests that made 
the first voyage were called Father John Gravener and Father Andrew 
White/ 7 he said. "Father White's name is genuine he wrote this fine 
account here, called A Briefe Relation of the Voyage Unto Mary-land. 
The other name is an alias of Father John Altham. One of these two went 
with George Calvert on the journey that you just heard spoken of in the 
letter, which purported to be an expedition into Virginia. Methinks 'twas 
Father White, for he was as mettlesome a fellow as ever cassock graced. 
But the other wight, whose name is absent from the letters, was in fact 
the saint I spoke of: (me Father Joseph FitzMaurice, that also called him- 
self Charles Fitzjames and Thomas FitzSimmons. The truth oft is, he 
ne'er returned from the journey." 

"But the letter you read declared " 

"I know to the author's shame. 'Twas doubtless meant to impress his 
superiors in Rome with the mission's success. Father FitzMaurice was the 
last of the three priests to come hither in 1634. ^is was a soul too zealous 
for God's work in London in those troubled times, which was best done 
unobtrusively, ^nd 'twas at his superiors' behest he shipped for Maryland, 
where his missionary zeal would redound to the glory of the Society and 
not its jeopardy. 

"But alas, on his arrival in St. Mary's, Father FitzMaurice found his 
brothers' work aimed almost wholly at the planters themselves, that were 
slipping daily nigh to apostasy. He was farther disillusioned by the Pis- 
cataways of the place, that so far from being heathen, far outshone their 
English brethren in devotion to the One True Faith. Father White had 
made an early convert of their Tayac, as is our policy, and anon the 
entire town of salvages had set to making rosaries of their roanoke. Tis 
little wonder that when George Calvert proposed his journey of exploration, 
Father FitzMaurice straightway offered to accompany him. 'Twas Calvert's 
declared intent to learn the western boundaries of his brother's county 
palatine, but his real design was to dicker privily with Captain William 
Claiborne about the Kent Island question." 

"I recall that name," Ebenezer said. "He was the spiritual father of John 
Coode!" 

"As sure as Satan was of Martin Luther," agreed the priest. "Father 
FitzMaurice saw how scanty were George Calvert's provisions, and so put 
by a large stock for himself; regardless of the length of the expedition, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 373 ] 

he planned to live some months among the wildest heathen he could 
find, and bring new souls to the Supremest Lord Proprietary of AIL" 

"That is good," Ebenezer said appreciatively. "That is well said." 

The priest smiled acknowledgment. "He packed one sea-chest full of 
bread, cheese, dried unripe corn, beans, and flour; in a second he packed 
three bottles of communion wine and fifteen of holy water for baptisms; 
a third carried the sacred vessels and a marble slab to serve for an altar; 
and a fourth was fitted with rosaries, crucifixes, medallions, and sundry 
gewgaws and brummagem oddments for appeasement and persuasion of 
the heathen. The whole was loaded in the pinnace Dove, and on the fourth 
of September they set sail to southwards, Howbeit, ere the afternoon was 
done the pinnace came about and headed up the Chesapeake instead. When 
Father FitzMaurice inquired the reason for't, he was told they were simply 
tacking to windward, and inasmuch as he knew naught of the ways of 
ships,, he had perforce to say no more. 

"At sunset they made anchorage in the lee of a large island, which the 
Piscataway guide called Monoponson, but George Calvert called Kent 
Island. Father FitzMaurice went ashore in the first boat and was chagrined 
once more, for 'twas settled and planted from shore to shore and abounded 
with white men, , who were heretic and inhospitable enough, but in no 
wise heathens. Then fancy his disgust when Calvert gave out to the com- 
pany that this was in fact their destination, and that his real mission was to 
negotiate Lord Baltimore's disputes with Captain Claiborne! 

"Yet when he voiced his pique to Father White, that good man recom- 
mended acquiescence. 'We must make a virtue of necessity/ is what he 
counseled. 'If Claiborne trades with salvages, 'tis logically antecedent there 
are Indians on this island. Who then can say but what our paths were 
guided hither for the improvement of these same salvages, and the further- 
ance of the One True Faith? Were't not in fact impiety, a denial of God's 
direction, not to remain here and reap our bounty among the heathen?' " 

"There is a pretty piece of casuistry," Burlingame remarked. 

"'Twas reasoned closely enough," the priest agreed, "but Father Fitz- 
Maurice would have none oft, nor would he rest content ere he found 
himself amid truly salvage Indians. Such heathen as remained upon 
the island, said he, were already half converted by the Virginians, though 
like as not to some rank heresy or other; the true worth of the missionary 
could be assayed only among the pure and untouched heathen that had 
ne'er set eyes on white men. 

"Father White spoke farther, but to no avail, so incensed was Father 



[ 374 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

FitzMaurice; they retired at length with some of the ship's company, the 
rest being engaged in carousal ashore. Next day no trace of Father Fitz- 
Maurice was to be found, nor of his four small chests, nor of the small 
boat that had been tethered beside the Dove. One message alone he left, 
by Father White's breviary: Si pereo, pereo A.M.D.G. He ne'er was seen 
again, and in time the Society gave him up for dead and struck his name 
from the records. No wight e'er learned whither he rowed, or what his fate 
was, until I commenced my researches some fifteen years ago: 'twas my 
good fortune then to converse with one Tacomon, an ancient salvage that 
once was king of a town at Castlehaven Point, just o'er the Choptank 
from here, and from him I heard a tale whose hero could be none but 
Father FitzMaurice. . . . 

"As best I understand it, Father FitzMaurice rowed from Kent past 
Tilghman's Island and eastward into the mouth of the Choptank, whether 
by accident or design, and headed shorewards when he saw the salvage 
town. Inasmuch as he faced his vessel's stern while rowing, the Indians 
had long since descried him and knew him for a white man, and King 
Tacomon with sundry of his Wisoes went down to greet him on the beach. 

"When the stranger stepped ashore, they observed that he wore a strange 
black gown, and that the image of a bird was painted on his boat. Tis 
these two details I pounced on when I heard them, for the Dove's boat 
carried such an emblem on its stern, and Father FitzMaurice ne'er removed 
his cassock save to sleep. Moreover, he had four wooden chests aboard the 
boat, and when he came ashore he fell to his knees in prayer no doubt 
to Maria Stella Maris, to thank her for his safe deliverance. The salvages 
showed great interest in all this, and greater still when Father FitzMaurice 
gave them baubles from his chest. Tacomon sent a man straightway into 
the town, who soon fetched down a goodly load of furs and all the other 
salvage folk as well. 

"Father FitzMaurice was delighted, I feel certain, at the numbers of 
the heathen that he would quite reasonably assume had ne'er seen a 
Christian man before. Picture him handing 'round trinkets with his left 
hand and blessing their recipients with his right, and all the while, 
so Tacomon remembered, babbling in a tongue no man among them 
kenned. They loaded furs into his boat until at length he saw they took 
him for a trader, whereupon he gave each one a crucifix and doubtless 
tried to explain, by signs, the Passion of Our Savior. 

"Anon this Tacomon, when he had scrutinized the crucifix, gave com- 
mands to one of his Wisoes, at the same time pointing to the cross. The 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 375 ] 

man ran once more to the town and came back with a small wooden box, 
at sight of which all the salvages fell prostrate on the beach. Would not 
Father FitzMaurice guess the box contained some pagan relic sacred to 
the tribe? I see him rehearsing in his mind the pretty ceremony of casting 
their idol to the ground, as did Moses on descending from Mount Sinai, 
and wondering how much holy water 'twould want to baptize the lot. 

"But alas for him, his trials were not yet done; the fact of the matter 
was, his virgin town had been deflowered years before by some trader pass- 
ing through and what was worse, by an arrant heretic Virginian! Tacomon 
fetched no Golden Calf from the box, but a leathern Bible, which was 
fronted with a woodcut of the Crucifixion. Just opposite (for I saw the 
book myself) the dedication ran: To the Most High and Mighty Prince 
James . . . that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby . . . ! 
The King held the book aloft for all to see, whereon with one accord the 
assembled Indians sang by rote the Anglican Te Deum: 

We praise thee, O God, we knowledge 

thee to be Lord. 
All the earth doth worship thee, 

the father everlasting . . . 

The poor father must have come near swooning; in any case he snatched 
two or three cracifixes from Tacomon and his cawcawaassoughs, leaped 
into his boat, and did not pause to cross himself till he was out of arrowshot 
As for the Indians, when they saw him shake his fist at them they took it 
for a fare-thee-well, which they returned with a reprise of their hymn," 

"Luckless wretch!" laughed Ebenezer, and even Burlingame, though 
still by no means playing the model guest, could not but smile and remark 
that the way of the saint is hard. 

"But pray," the poet asked, "what was the poor man's fortune after, or 
is't a mystery?" 

"When I had learnt this much of his misfortunes," said the priest, "I 
could not rest till I discovered his end. I made enquiries up and down 
the Province, but especially in lower Dorchester County, for I guessed 
that when his first try failed he would row farther south in search of 
heathen. For a long time my efforts bore no fruit. Then not many years 
past an Indian was brought to trial in Cambridge court on charges of kill- 
ing an entire family of white folk, and, happening to have some business 
in the area, I took it upon myself to shrive the poor man of his sins. He 
would none of my services and was hanged anon, but in our bootless col- 
loquy I learned^ as't were by accident, the fate of Father FitzMaurice. 



[ 376 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"The name of the salvage was Charley Mattassin. He was not of any 
Choptank town, but from a warlike band of Nanticokes that in time long 
past had crossed into the marshes of Dorchester and are said to live there 
yet in fierce seclusion. This Charley was in fact the Tayac's son, and for 
all he had run off with an English whore, that later was among the souls 
he murthered, he bore surpassing hatred for the English, which sentiment 
he owned was learnt from his father the Tayac. He contemned me in 
especial, when I went to him with holy water and crucifix to baptize and 
shrive him: he spat upon my cassock and declared his people had once 
burned a man like me upon a cross! I then enquired, Did he mean an 
Englishman? For I had heard of no such deed. And he replied, in essence, 
'twas not merely an Englishman but a black-robed priest with crucifix and 
breviary, such as I, who with all his magical water could not cool the fire 
that burnt him. And what was yet more curious, this priest was Charley's 
own grandfather, so he declared, and was burnt by Charley's father." 

"Out on't, this is incredible!" Ebenezer cried. 

The priest agreed. "When I had heard it I put by my holy errand and 
implored him to tell me morenot alone because the tale seemed so pi- 
quant, but also in hopes 'twould shed some light, howsoever grisly, on my 
history of the Jesuit mission. I shall answer for the Indian's soul to God, 
but i'faith,, a good tale's worth a guilty conscience, is't not? Moreover, I can 
but think God sent me thither to hear't, for when 'twas done I knew the 
full and tragic tale of Father FitzMaurice. . . . 

"When that sainted wight left Castlehaven, who knows how long he 
drifted south, or how many were his vain sallies ashore? What force save 
miracle could keep his craft afloat for hours and days in the lusty Chesa- 
peake, and wash him at last to the wild rogue Nanticokes I spoke of? As 
Charley told me, that had the tale by rote from the Tayac his father, some 
threescore autumns past a fearsome hurricane swept the marsh and washed 
a strange boat into the Indian town. In the boat, swooned dead away, was 
a black-frocked Englishman, haply the first they had laid eyes upon, and 
sundry brass-bound chests." 

"Then in sooth 'twas no man else than Father FitzMaurice!" 

"So said my heart on hearing it," replied the priest, "yet 'twas so won- 
drous a coincidence I scarce durst believe it. Howbeit, my informant's next 
words cleared all doubt: there was an old Belief among his tribe, he said, 
that white-skinned men are treacherous as water-vipers, and should be mas- 
sacred on sight. Yet so unusual was the aspect of this visitor, and so strangely 
was he brought into their midst, some feared he was an evil spirit bent 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 377 ] 

on working mischief among them; and they feared this the more strongly 
inasmuch as his cassock looked like the black storm cloud, and on the tran- 
som of his boat was drawn the image of a bird! I have no doubts it was 
the Dove, but the salvages took it for a tern and were the more alarmed, 
for that the tern is rarely seen so far from open water save when some 
great storm blows him inland. 

"Anon they overcame their fear, inasmuch as the man seemed helpless, 
and whilst he lay still a-swoon they fetched him to a lodge and tethered 
his ankles with rawhide thongs. Then they broke open his chests and decked 
themselves with beads and crucifixes. When the prisoner awoke he knelt 
for a while with lowered head and then addressed them in a tongue they 
knew naught of. While the elders of the town held council on what to 
do with him, the younger men gave him food and stood about to watch 
his antics, which they thought supremely funny. He caught sight of the 
crucifixes from his chest and for some hours repeated a ritual of gesticula- 
tion, which though not a single salvage understood, it so pleased 'em that 
they practiced the gestures in turn, and passed them on to succeeding gen- 
erations. E'en Charley Mattassin could recall them,, that had learnt them 
from his father, and for aught I know his tribe performs 'em yet down in 
the Dorset marshes. Here was the first,, as 'twas shown to me see what 
you make oft." 

Moving out from the table, Father Smith pointed to himself and then 
in quick succession plucked at his cassock, held up his crucifix, crossed him- 
self, dropped to his knees in simulated prayer, jumped up, and stretched 
out his arms and raised his eyes in imitation of Christ on the cross. 

"Methinks he meant to show he was a priest," said Burlingame. 

"Aye!" the Laureate agreed excitedly. " 'Sheart, 'tis like a voice from 
the gravel" 

"Yet not by half so clever as this next," the priest said. 

"How's that? The salvages recalled e'en more?" 

Father Smith nodded proudly. "That first was mere identification, but 

this: 'tis no less than Christian doctrine, done in signs! First came this " 

He held up three fingers,, which Ebenezer correctly interpreted as symboliz- 
ing the Holy Trinity. 

"Then this " After indicating the first of the three, the priest stood 

on tiptote and pointed skywards with his right hand, grasping with his left 
the area of his genitalia. 

"Dear me!" laughed Burlingame. "I fear 'tis the Father in Heav'nl", 

"No less," beamed the priest. He then raised his index finger beside 



[ 378 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

the forefinger and, in succession, rocked an invisible child in his arms and 
displayed the crucifix, unequivocally representing the Son. Raising next his 
ring finger beside the other two, he lay for a moment prostrate on the 
ground with closed eyes and then, fixing his gaze on the ceiling, rose 
slowly to his feet, meanwhile flapping his arms like wings to suggest the 
Ascension and thus the Holy Ghost. 
"Marvelous!" the poet applauded. 

"Was't past his powers to do the Virgin Birth?" Burlingame inquired. 
Father Smith was not at all ruffled. "Faith moveth mountains," he de- 
clared. "How can we doubt his prowess in any article of doctrine, when 
such a subtle mystery as the Unity of the Trinity he dispenses with so lu- 
cidly as this?" Holding forth the same three fingetS as before, he alternately 
spread and closed them. 
"Braver 

"Of course," he said, " 'twas an entire waste of wit, for not a heathen 
in the house knew what he meant. Methinks they must have rolled about 
in mirth, and when the poor priest wearied they would prod him with a 
stick to set him pantomiming farther." 

"Surely your informant could not tell you such details," Burlingame 
said skeptically. "All these things took place before his birth." 

"He could not, nor did he need to," Smith replied. "All salvages are 
much alike, be they Indian, Turk, or unredeemed English, and I know 
the ways of salvages. For this reason I shall speak henceforth from the 
martyr's point of view, as't were, adding what I can surmise to the things 
Charley Mattassin told me. Twill make' a better tale than otherwise, and 
do no violence to what scanty facts we have." 
He returned to the table and poured a fourth round of Jerez. 
"Let us say the young men mock him for some hours, aping his gestures 
and tormenting him with sticks. They become quite curious about the color 
of his skin: one grasps the priest's hand in his own, chattering to his 
companions as he compares the hue; another slaps the flesh of his stomach 
and points to Father FitzMaurice's cassock, wondering whether the stranger 
hath the same outlandish color from head to foot. The rest deride this 
notion, to the great indignation of the curious one; he lifts up his muskrat 
loincloth and voices a second conjecture, so fantastical to Ijis brothers that 
their eyes brim o'er with glee. They fall to wagering four, five strings of 
wompompeagand at length deprive Father FitzMaurice of his weathered 
clothes, for proof. Ecce homo! There he stands, all miserable and a-shiver; 
his belly is as white as the belly of a rockfish, and though his parts have 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 379 ] 

lain as idle as a Book of Common Prayer in the Vatican, he boasts in 
sooth a full set nonetheless. The challenger stalks off with his winnings, 
and the young Tayac, who is not above thirty years of age, gives commands 
to end the sport." 

"Ah, now, prithee, wait a momentl" Burlingame protested. 'This is made 
up from the whole cloth!" 

"Say, from the Holy Cloth," rejoined the imperturbable Smith, widen- 
ing his blue eyes at the jest. 

"I for one prefer't thus," Ebenezer declared impatiently to his friend. 
"Let him flesh his bony facts into a tale." 

Burlingame shrugged and turned back to the fire. 

"The women then bring forth the evening meal," the priest went on. 
"To Father FitzMaurice, cowering naked on his grass mat in the corner, 
it seems interminable, but anon 'tis done; the women remain, tobacco is 
passed round, and a general carouse ensues. The priest looks on, abashed 
but curious, for albeit he is a Jesuit, he is a man as well, and plans more- 
over to write a treatise on the practices of the salvage if his life is spared. 
His presence is for the nonce ignored, and as they disport in their error 
he wrings his wits to hit upon a means of speaking with them, so to initiate 
the business of conversion. 

"The hour arrives when the young Tayac addresses certain words to all 
the group, sundry of whom turn round to regard the priest. Two hoary, 
painted elders leave the hut to fetch back a carven pole, some ten feet 
long, that bears a skunk pelt at the bottom and a crudely mounted muskrat 
on the top. All present genuflect before it, and its bearers hold it forth 
toward Father FitzMaurice. The Tayac points his finger at the muskrat 
and speaks certain gibberish, whose imperious tone hath need of no trans- 
lation: 'tis a call for similar obsequies from the priest 

"Father FitzMaurice deems the moment opportune. His nakedness for- 
got, he springs to his feet and shakes his head to signify refusal. Then he 
once more holds aloft his crucifix, nods his head in vigorous affirmation, 
and makes a motion as though to fling the idol down. The Tayac now 
grows wroth; he repeats the same command in louder tones, and the other 
folk are still. But Father FitzMaurice stands firm: he raises a finger to in- 
dicate that the figure on the crucifix is the true and only God, and goes 
so far as to spit upon the sacred staff. At once the Tayac strikes him down; 
the idol-bearers place the butt of their pole upon the back of his neck to 
pin him fast to the dirt, and the Tayac pronounces a solemn incantation, 
whereto the others shout assent." 



[ 580 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"Unhappy wretch!" sighed Ebenezer. "I fear his martyrdom is at hand/' 

"Not yet/' the priest declared. "Now the hut is cleared at once, and 
Father FitzMaurice is left trembling in the dirt. Anon a dozen salvage 
maidens enter, all bedaubed with puccoon paint; they spread their mats 
about the floor and to all appearances make ready for the night . . ." 

" Tis no mysteiy what will ensue," Burlingame remarked, "if these Nan- 
ticokes are like some other Indians." 

But Ebenezer, who knew nothing of such matters, implored Father 
Smith to go on with the tale. 

"Father FitzMaurice is abashed tenfold at the presence of the maidens/' 
said the priest, "more especially as he seems the subject of a colloquy among 
them, carried on in mirthful whispers. He makes a mental note, for his 
treatise, that salvage maids all share a common chamber, and rejoices when 
at last the fire burns out and he can clothe his shame with darkness. 

"But his solitude doth not live long: he hath told not more than three 
Ave Marias ere an Indian wench, perfumed with grease of bear and covered 
no more than an Adamite, flings herself upon him and bites him in the 
neck!" 

"I'God!" cried Ebenezer. 

"The good man struggles, but the maid hath strength, and besides, his 
foot is tethered. She lays hands upon the candle of the Carnal Mass, and 
mirabile, the more she trims it, the greater doth it wax! Father FitzMaurice 
scarce can conjure up his Latin, yet so bent is he on making at least one 
convert ere he dies, he stammers out a blessing. For reply the heathen 
licks his ear, whereupon Father FitzMaurice sets to saying Paternosters 
with all haste, more concerned now with the preservation of his own grace 
than the institution of his ward's. But no sooner is he thus engaged than 
zut! she caps his candle with the snuffer priests must shun, that so far 
from putting out the fire, only fuels it to a greater heat and brilliance. 
In sum, where he hath hoped to win a convert, 'tis Father FitzMaurice 
finds himself converted, in less time than it wants to write a syllogism 
and baptized, catechized, received, and given orders into the bargain!" 

Burlingame smiled at the Laureate's absorption in the tale. "Doth that 
strike you closely, Eben?" 

"Barbarous!" the poet said with feeling. "To fall so from his vows by 
no fault of- his own! What misery must his noble soul have suffered!" 

"Nay, sir," Father Smith declared, "you forget he is the stuff of saints, 
and a Jesuit as well." 

Ebenezer protested that he did not understand. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"He explores the pros and contras of his case," the priest explained, "and 
adduces four good arguments to ease his suffering conscience. To begin 
with, 'tis e'er the wont of prudent missionaries to wink their eyes, at the 
outset, at any curious customs of the folk they would convert. In the 
second place, he is promoting the rapport 'twixt him and the heathen that 
must be established ere conversion can commence; 'twas for no other cause 
than this he packed the chest of baubles, and the present tactic, albeit not 
of his own invention, is both cheaper and more effective. Third, 'tis to 
his ultimate good he sins, as is shown past cavil by holy precedent: had 
not the illustrious St. Augustine, for example,, essayed the manifold refine- 
ments of the flesh, the better to know and appreciate virtue? And finally, 
lest these have an air of casuistry, he is tethered and pinioned from head 
to foot and hath therefore no choice or culpability in the matter. In fine, 
so far from wailing o'er his plight, he comes to see in it the hand of Provi- 
dence and joins in the labor with a will. If his harvest be commensurate 
to his tilling of the ground, so he reflects, he might well be raised to 
a bishopric by Rome! 

"When anon the maid is ploughed and harrowed, Father FitzMaurice 
finds her place taken by another, whom he loses no chance to prime like 
the first for her conversion. Ere dawn, with the help of God, he hath per- 
suaded every woman in the hut of the clear superiority of the Faith, and 
inasmuch as there were in all some half-score visitants, when the last is 
catechized he falls exhausted into sleep. 

"Not long after, he awakes in high spirits: such strides hath he made 
toward conversion of the women, he feels sure of making progress with 
the men. Nor do his hopes seem groundless, for anon the Tayac and his 
cawcawaassoughs appear and order the women from the hut, after which 
they cut the tether from his foot. 'Bless you, my friends,' he cries. *You have 
seen the true and only Way!' And he forgives them for his cruel use at their 
hands. They fetch him up and lead him from the hut, and he is over- 
whelmed with joy at what he sees: the hurricane is gone, and through its 
last dark clouds the sun falls on a large wooden cross, erected in the court- 
yard of the town, and on the priest's four precious sea-chesty at its foot. 
The Tayac points first to Father FitzMaurice's crucifix and then to the 
larger cross. 

" This is God's work,' declares the missionary. 'He hath shewed to thee 
thine error, and in thy simple fashion thou dost Him homage!' He is 
moved to kneel in grateful prayer to God, whom he thanks both for work- 
ing His divine will on the minds of the heathen men and for vouchsafing 



[ 582 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

to His lowly priest the wherewithal to work His will upon their unmarried 
women. Then alas, his prayers are cut short by two strong men, who grasp 
his arms and lead him to the cross. Father FitzMaurice smiles indulgently 
on their roughness,, which he takes for childish haste to commence the 
ceremony, but in a trice they bind him fast to the cross by his ankles, 
arms, and neck, and then pile faggots on the sea-chests at his feet. All 
in vain he cries for mercy to the gathering crowd. His novitiates of the 
night just past, when he addresses them, merely cluck their tongues and 
watch the scene with interest: 'tis the law of their land that when a man 
is doomed to die he may enjoy the tribe's unmarried girls on the eve of his 
execution, and they have discharged their obligation! 

"Then comes this great soul's noblest moment. The Tayac confronts 
him for the last time, in one hand the sacred muskrat, in the other a flam- 
ing torch, and makes an ultimate demand for his obeisance. Yet though 
he sees his case is lost, Father FitzMaurice summons up his last reserves 
of courage and spits on the pagan idol once again." 

"A very prince of saints!" said Ebenezer. 

" Tis a marvel he could summon any spit," Burlingame observed. 

"At once a shout goes up, and the Tayac flings his torch upon the fag- 
gots! The salvages dance and shake their sacred pole at him for in fact 
'tis as a heretic they condemn him and the flames leap up to singe his 
puccoon paint. The good man knows that our afflictions are God's blessings 
in disguise, and so reasons that he was meant not for a missionary after all, 
but for a martyr. He lifts his eyes to Heaven, and with his final tortured 
breath he says, 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do. . . .' " 

Though he was not religiously inclined, so impressed was Ebenezer by 
the tale that he murmured "Amen." 

" 'Twould perhaps have made his death more easy, if no less warm, had 
Father FitzMaurice known that even as he roasted there were three white 
babes a-building in the wombs of his novitiates. Of these, one died a-bearing, 
ancfther was exposed out in the marsh, and the third, when she was nubile, 
became the mother of my informant by the old Tayac himself. As for the 
Jesuit mission, when George Calvert returned at last to St. Mary's City, 
his negotiations with Claiborne proving bootless, the remaining priests 
vowed not to report their colleague's defection to Rome until they learned 
more of his whereabouts. To this end they reported, in the annual letter I 
read you, that both priests had returned with the expedition. After that 
time such various rumors were heard of him, none of them true, that they 
put off reporting his absence indefinitely. New priests came to the Province; 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 383 ] 

God's work went on less zealously but more steadily, and in time the name 
FitzMaurice was forgot." 

He would have said more, but Burlingame interrupted him to ask, "And 
what is your opinion of him, Father? Was the man a fool or a saint?" 

The priest turned his wide blue eyes upon his questioner. "Those are not 
true alternatives, Mr. Mitchell: he was a fool of God, as hath been many a 
holy man before him, and the most that can be said is that his way was not 
the way of the Society. A dead missionary makes no converts, nor doth a 
live martyr." 

"It is truly said," Ebenezer declared: "There are more ways to the woods 
than one!' 

"Then permit me a nearer question," Burlingame insisted. "Which way 
is the more congenial to your temper?" 

Father Smith appeared to consider this question for some moments before 
replying. He tapped out his pipe and fingered the papers on the table. 
"Why do you ask?" he inquired at last, though his tone suggested that he 
knew the reason already. " 'Tis not likely one could gauge his capacity for 
martyrdom ere the choice was thrust upon him." 

To this Burlingame only smiled, but his meaning was unmistakable. 
Ebenezer blushed with horror, 

"The fact of the matter is," the priest went on, "I scarcely dare deliver 
the Journal into your hands. The ways of Coode are infinitely devious, and 
your authorization is signed by Nicholson, not Lord Baltimore." 

"So 'that is the stripe oft!" Burlingame laughed mirthlessly. "You don't 
trust Nicholson, that owes his post to Baltimore? He was hand-picked by 
reason of his enmity toward Coode!" 

The priest shook his head. "Francis Nicholson is no man's tool, my friend. 
Hath he not struck out already at Governor Andros, that erst was his 
superior? Doth he not intend to move the capital from St. Mary's to Anne 
Anindel Town, for no better reason than to show his allegiance to the 
Protestant King?" 

"But dear God!" Burlingame cried. " 'Twas Nicholson stole the Journal 
in the first place, and smuggled it to Baltimore! How can you doubt his 
loyalty?" 

" Tis as I $aid before of Mister Cooke," Father Smith explained. "All 
men are loyal, but their objects of allegiance are at best approximate. Thus 
Father FitzMaurice showed a loyal zeal for service in the Province, as did 
Fathers White and Altham, but once here, that same zeal led to his defec- 
tion; no man knew till then 'twas some other goal he strove for. How shall 



[ 384 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

I say it?" He smiled nervously, as if aware that his words were not per- 
suading Burlingame. 

"Many travelers ride the Plymouth coach together/ 7 Burlingame sug- 
gested, *1)ut not all have Maryland for their destination/' 

"Our Laureate here could not have put it better! If I could see an au- 
thorization in Lord Baltimore's hand, with his signature affixed, as I was 
instructed to demand, then I should deliver up the Journal to John Calvin 
himself, and there's an end on't." 

Fearing the measures his friend might threaten, Ebenezer came near to 
imploring the priest to trust him personally, as Charles Calvert's poet 
laureate, if he could not trust Nicholson or Burlingame; but he checked 
himself upon remembering again, with no little annoyance, that his com- 
mission was not authentic, and that even if it were, he could not produce 
it for inspection. 

A new expression came to Burlingame's face: leaning over the table to- 
ward their host he drew from his belt a leather-handled, poigTwrdlike knife, 
and in the candlelight ran his thumb across its edge. 

"I had thought the Governor's note were sufficient persuasion," he said, 
"but here is logic keen enough to sway the most adamant of Jesuits! Produce 
the Journal, an it please you!" 

Though he had anticipated some sort of threat, Ebenezer was so shaken 
by this move that he could not even gasp. 

Father Smith stared round-eyed at the knife and licked his lips. "I .shan't 
be the first to perish in the service of the Society." 

Even to Ebenezer this remark sounded more experimental than defiant. 
Burlingame smiled. "'Twere a coward indeed that feared a clean stroke of 
the dirk! E'en Father FitzMaurice had a harder lot, to say naught of 
Catherine on her wheel or Lawrence on his griddle: what would it avail me 
to let you join their company? I'd be no nearer the Journal than I am." 

'Then 'tis some torture you have in mind?" Father Smith murmured. 
""We Christians are no strangers there, either." 

"Most especially the Holy Roman Church," Burlingame said cynically, 
"that hath authored such delights as never Saracen could devise!" Not tak- 
ing his eyes from the priest, he proceeded to describe, perhaps for Ebene- 
zer's benefit, various persuasions resorted to by the agents of the Inquisi- 
tion: the strappado, the aselli, the escdera, the potro, the tablillas, the rack, 
the Iron Maiden, the hot brick, the Gehenna, and others. The Laureate 
was impressed enough by this recital, though it made him feel no easier 
about the business at hand. Father Smith sat stonily throughout. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [385] 

"Yet these are all refinements for the connoisseur/' Burlingame declared. 
"Who inflicts them savors his victim's pain as an end, not as a means, and 
I've nor taste nor time for such a game." Still thumbing the knife blade he 
left the table whereat the priest gave a start despite himself and bolted 
the cabin door. "I have observed among the Caribbean pirates that they 
may make a man eat his own two ears for sport, or fornicate his daughter 
with a short-sword; but when 'tis certain information that they seek, they 
have recourse to a simpler and wondrous quick expedient." He advanced 
toward the table, knife in hand. "Since thou'rt a priest, the loss should cause 
you no regrets; what shall unbind your tongue, sir, is the manner of the 
losing. Tis a blow to lose a treasure in one fell stroke, but how harder to be 
robbed oft jewel by jewel! Must I say more?" 

" 'Sblood,, Henry!" Ebenezer cried, jumping to his feet. "I cannot think 
you mean to do't!" 

"Henry, is't?" the priest said thickly. "Thou'rt impostors after all!" 

Burlingame frowned at Ebenezer. "I mean to do't, and you shall aid me. 
Hold him fast till I find rope to bind him!" 

Although the priest showed no inclination to resist, Ebenezer could not 
bring himself to participate in the business. He stood about uncertainly. 

"Now that I know you for an agent of John Coode," Father Smith de- 
clared, "I am prepared to suffer any pain. You shall not have the Journal 
from my hands." 

When Burlingame growled and advanced another step, the priest 
snatched a letter-opener from under his papers and retreated to a farther 
wall, where, instead of assuming a posture of defense, he placed the point 
of his weapon against his heart. "Stand -fast!" he cried, when Burlingame 
approached. "Another step and I will end my life!" 

Burlingame halted. " Tis merely bluff." 

"Hither, then, and give't the lie!" 

"And do you believe your God excuses holy suicide?" 

"I know not what He excuses," said the priest. " Tis the Church I serve, 
and I know well they can justify my act." 

After a pause Burlingame shrugged, smiled, and replaced the poignard 
in his belt. "Pourquoi est-ce que je taerais un homrne si loyal <i la cause 
sainte?" 

The priest's expression changed from defiance to incredulousness. "What 
did you say?" 

"]*<d dit, vous avez d6montre votre fid&itg, et aussi votre sagesse: je ne 
me confie pas & Nicholson plus que vous. Allons, le Journdl" 



[ 386 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

This tactic mystified Ebenezer no less than Father Smith. "I cannot fol- 
low your French, Henry!" he complained. But instead of translating, 
Burlingame turned upon him with the poignard and backed him against 
the wall. 

"You will understand anon, poor fool!" Henry cried, and to the still- 
bewildered priest he ordered, "Fouillez cet homme pour les armes, et puis 
apportez le Journal!" 

"What hath possessed you?" the poet demanded. Coming on the heels of 
all his other doubts about Burlingame, this new turn of events was particu- 
larly discomforting. 

"Who are you?" asked the priest. "And what credentials can you show?" 

"Parlons une langue plus douce" smiled Burlingame. "Je rial pas 
tfordres ecrits de Baltimore, et je n'en veux pas. Vous admettrez qu'il ne 
soft pas la source seule de l'autorit? Quant & mes lettres de crfance, je les 
porte toujours sur ma personnel He unbuttoned his shirt and displayed 
the letters MC carved into the skin of his chest. "Celles-ci ne sont peu 
connues b Thomas Smith?" 

"Monsieur Casteene!" exclaimed Father Smith. "Vous et&s Monsieur 
Casteene?" 

"Ainsi que vous etes Jesuite" Henry said, "et je peux faire plus que 
Baltimore ne reve pour debarrasser ce lieu de protestants anglais. Vivent 
James et Louis, et apportez-moi le sacre Journal!" 

"Oui, Monsieur, tout de suite! Si favais connu qui vous et&s " 

"Mes soupgons n'ont pas &6 plus petits que les votres, mais Us sont 
disparus. Cet 6pouvantail-ci parait fare loyd Baltimore, mais il riest pas 
catholique: s'il fait de la peine, je le tuerai ..." 

"Oui, Monsieur!" said the delighted priest. "Mais out, fapporterai le 
Journal tout de suite!" He ran to unlock an iron-bound chest in one corner 
of the cabin. 

"What in the name of Heav'n doth this mean?" cried Ebenezer, in an 
anguish of doubt 

"What it means," said his companion, "is that I am not this Henry you 
took me for, nor yet the Timothy Mitchell I am called. I am Monsieur 
Casteene!" 

"Who?" 

"Your fame hath not yet spread to London, sir," the priest laughed from 
the comer. He fetched a sheaf of manuscript from the chest and turned 
scornfully to the Laureate. "Monsieur Casteene is known throughout the 
length and breadth of the provinces as the Grand Enemy of the English. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 387 ] 

He hath been Governor of Canada, and fought both Andros and Nicholson 
in New York/' 

"Until my enemies gained favor with King Louis and undid me," the 
other said bitterly. 

"Monsieur Casteene then fled to the Indians," Smith went on. "He lives 
among them, and hath taken to wife an Indian woman " 

"Two Indian women, Father Smith: 'tis a sin God will forgive, in return 
for the massacre of Schenectady." 

"I had heard you were on Colonel Hermann's manor in Cecil County," 
said the priest. "Is't possible Colonel Hermann too is more than just Lord 
Baltimore's man?" 

"With faith all things are possible; at least he denied my presence, and 
disclaimed any knowledge of the Naked Indians." 

"Then thou'rt traitors, the pair of you!" cried Ebenezer, "Thou'rt a 
traitor," he said specifically to his companion, "and I took you to be my 
dear friend Burlingame! How much doth this discrepancy explain!" 

The man with the knife laughed a brief, derisive laugh and held out his 
hand to Father Smith for the Journal. "Permettez-moi regarder ce livre 
merveilleux pour lequel fat risqut ma vie." 

The priest gave it to him eagerly, whereupon, without hesitation, 
Burlingame struck him such a blow upon the back of his neck that he fell 
senseless to the floor. 

"I had not thought him such a fool! Find rope to bind him with, Eben, 
and we shall see what have we here ere we retire." 



25: FURTHER PASSAGES FROM CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH'S 
SECRET HISTORIE OF THE VOIAGE UP THE BAY OF 
CHESAPEAKE: DORCHESTER DISCOVERED, AND HOW 
THE CAPTAIN FIRST SET FOOT UPON IT 



"COME, BIND HIM UP," BURLINGAME REPEATED, SPREADING THE JOURNAL 

open on the table. "Already he hath commenced to stir." But seeing that 
Ebenezer was still too disorganized to act, he fetched some rope himself 
from a shelf nearby and bound the priest's hands and feet. "At least help 
me lift him into a chair!" 



[ 388 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

Reviving, Father Smith winced and blinked, and then stared sullenly at 
the Journal. He found his voice before the poet did. 

"Who are you, then John Coode?" 

Burlingame laughed. "Only Tim Mitchell, as I said at the outset, and a 
loyal friend of Baltimore, if not King Louis and the Pope. Thou'rt a stiff 
neck poorer for your lack of faith, my friend/' To Ebenezer, whose turbu- 
lent features betrayed his lingering doubts, he explained further that rumors 
had been rife in Maryland since 1692 of the legendary Monsieur Casteene's 
presence near the Pennsylvania border. Colonel Augustine Hermann of 
Bohemia Manor in Cecil County had denied the presence of both 
Casteene and the so-called Stabbernowles, or "Naked Indians" of the north, 
but so great was the fear of general massacre at the hands of the French 
and the Indians especially in the light of Maryland and Virginia's 
persistent refusal to aid the beleaguered Governor Fletcher of New York 
and the mutual distrust among all the provincial governments that the 
rumors still persisted, and the most bizarre details of the Casteene legend, 
such as that of the scarified monogram on his chest, were widely believed. 
"I scratched those letters with my dirk this evening in Oxford/ 7 he con- 
cluded, displaying them again in the candlelight. "See how fresh they are? 
TTwas a card I'd not have played in the light of day!" 

Ebenezer sat weakly in a chair. "B'm'faith, how you alarmed me! I know 
you not from one hour to the next!" 

"Nor should you try. Pour out a round of this admirable wine and reflect 
on what I told you at the inn some hours ago." He clapped the priest on 
the shoulder. " 'Tis an ungrateful guest that binds his host to a chair for the 
night, but there's naught for't. Besides, 'tis for that cause wherefor you'd 
die, and not by half so sore a martyrdom as geldingn'est-ce pas?" He 
laughed at the priest's expression of disgust, and when the wine was poured, 
the guests commenced to read together the verso (which was in fact the 
original recto) of their prize: 

Having received such cordidl use [so this fragment of the Historic began] 
at the hands of those Salvages at Accomack & those at the River of 
wighcocomoco,<wesetoutagaineforthemaine. 

'That is the town of Hicktopeake he refers to," Ebenezer volunteered, 
though in truth he was entertaining such a mixture of feelings towards his 
fonner tutor that he spoke only out of a sort of shyness. "The Laughing 
King of whom I told you. The other Indians I know naught of." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 389 ] 

"There are two rivers called Wicomfco in Maryland," Burlingame said 
thoughtfully. "One near St. Mary's County on the Western Shore and one 
below Dorchester County. Methinks 'tis the latter he intends, if he coasted 
up the Bay from Accomac." 

. . . but for want of fresh water, in two dales had perforce to seeke out land, 
that we might replenishe our supplie. We found some Isles, dl uninhabited & 
many in number, falling with a high land upon the maine. 

"Now where do you suppose that is?" mused Burlingame. "I know of 
no high-landed islands in the Bay." 

"Haply 'twas but the Calvert cliffs he chanced on," Ebenezer suggested, 
recalling his Island of the Seven Cities. "Let's read on." 

Upon waying and going ashoar, we chanc'd on a pond of fresh water, but iv* 
was surpassing warme. Howbeit, we were so verie thirstie, that maugre my. coun- 
sell to the contrarie, to witt, that the water was doubtlesse fowle, naught w* doe 
but my companie must file there barricoes withal, & drinke therefrom, till that 
there verie gutts did slushe about. This they learn' d to regrett, but of that, more 
anon. 

From Wighcocomoco to this place, dl the coast is but low broken Isles of 
Moras, a myle or two in breadth, & tenne or twelve in length, & joule and stink- 
ing by reason of the stagnant waters therein. Add to w cl1 , the dre is beclowded 
with vile meskitoes, that sucke at a mans bloud, as though they had never eate 
before. It is forsooth no countrie, for any save the Sdvage . . . 

"That picture doth apply to one place only," laughed Burlingame, who 
had read the passage aloud. "Do you know it, Father?" 

And the priest, his historical curiosity aroused despite his circumstances, 
smiled stiffly and nodded: "The Dorset marshes." 

"Aye," Burlingame confirmed. "The Hooper Islands, Bloodsworth Island, 
and South Marsh. There is a morsel for your epic, Ebenezer: the first white 
man to set foot on Dorset County." 

Ebenezer made perfunctory acknowledgment, but pointed out that as 

yet the Captain had not gone ashore and perhaps would pass the county by. 

He showed less petulance in his reply to the priest, who professed great 

interest in the document and chagrin at having been thitherto unaware of 

its existence, and for his sake read the remainder of it aloud. 

"Being thus refreshed, despite my warnings, in moving over to other Isles, we 
incounter'd the winde & waters so much increased with thunder, lightning, & 
raine, that for all my souldiers & my selfe reefd & belay'd the saytes 
& lines, our mast & sayle went by the board. Such mightie waves overrack'd us in 
that smalle barge, that with great persuasions I indue" d our Gentlemen to 
occupie them selves with freeing out the water, in their hatts, for that else we had 



[ 39 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

fownder'd & surike. We anchor* d, being not neare any place that promised safe 
harbour, and there we sat a miserable two daies, while the gusts did blowe, with 
little to nourish our selves withal, save the vile water in the barricoes. 

"This same water, the w^ my men had taken against my warning, prov'd to be 
foule indeed, for that upon slaking therewith there thirst t all the companie did 
growe wondrous grip'd of there bowetts, and loose of there bladders, & took a 
weakness of there reins, so that they still had need of making water, & of voiding 
there severall bummes. Little my men did all the day long, & the night, while 
that we rode thus at anchor, but besmirch them selves. At length, the 
-wether being warm, if squallie, I did order one & all to divest them selves of there 
breeches, the w ch -were beshitt past rescue, and cast them to the fishes. This they 
all did, but with much compleynt, most markedlie from my rivdl Burlingame, 
who looses no opening to sowe the seedes of discontent & faction." 

"Thank Heav'n he is still among the party!" Burlingame exclaimed. "I 
feared old John had done him in after Accomac." 

44 Tis no light matter to choose betwixt the two/' Ebenezer remarked. 
"Captain Smith is undeniably resourceful, and no leader can indulge 
factitiousness save at his peril/' 

"True enough for you," Burlingame replied curtly. "He's not your 
ancestor. For me there is no problem in the choice." 

"We've no certain knowledge he is your ancestor, either," the poet said. 
"When all's said and done, 'tis a marvelous slender chance, is't not?" 

This observation so plainly injured Burlingame that despite the possible 
justification for his unkindness Ebenezer at once regretted making it, and 
apologized. 

"No matter." Burlingame waved him away. "Read on." 

"Being left then, with there bummes expos'd, I did command, that they set 
them selves over the gunwales, inasmuch as the Bay of Chesapeake was of greate 
size, and c* accommodate them better then our barge. Yet this new command 
did little ease our plight, for that dbeit they dropp'd there matter to the fishes, - 
the dre round about was no lesse fouVd by there joynt labours. Naught c* our 
jy of Physick do to improve them, and I did wish heartilie to be on shoar, where 
with the sapp of the sweet-gumme tree & sundrie other herbes, w*> grewe a-plen- 
tie in the woods thereabouts, I c* have brew'd a decoction, that had bound the 
lot of them costive for a fortnight. Forsooth, things did worsen yet, for that the 
sillie men w* not restrayne there thirst, but still returned and drank farther of the 
water, whereon there fluxes & gripes did intensifie apace. Onely two of our num- 
ber shew'd no sign of the maladie, namelie my selfe, that had not deign'd to 
drinkeof the barricoes, but had instead made my selfe to chewe upon raw fishes, 
and friend Burlingame, that had drunke enough for three, but that must needs 
have had a grand hold on his reins, for that he never did besmirch him selfe 
throughout those foule two daies. 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 39 1 1 

"When the storme at length overblewe us, and the -wether againe shew'd faire, 
I did with all haste order, that the sayle be repair' d, and this the companie did 
with right good will, using of there shirts for clouts. They were most readie to 
abandon the maine, and sayle for some shoar, albeit they were now naked as 
Father Adam, so as to put food & cleanlie water into there bellies, and pass 
off there fluxes at last. For the extremitie of gusts, thunder, rayne, storms, & ill 
wether, we did call those Straites, wherein we had for so long layn, Limbo, but I 
think, with all the farting and ill businesse that did pass there, we had better 
calVd them Purgatorio. 

After a surpassing clumsie daye of sayling, making smaHe headway, for the 
crewe must continudlie hang there bummes abeame, we fell with a prettie con- 
venient river on the East, cdled Cuskarawaok . . ." 

"That is a word from the Nanticoke tongue/' Father Smith interrupted. 
"I have not learnt its meaning, but in old times it was applied to that same 
river we call the Nanticoke today/' 

"Ffaith, then!" Burlingame laughed. "'Tis precious little grcrand he 
gained for all those evil days!" He explained to Ebenezej that the 
Nanticoke River, which marks the boundary between Dorchester and 
Somerset Counties, empties into Tangier Sound conjointly with the 
Wicomico, from where, the record seemed to imply, Smith had departed 
several days previously. 

"AZZ that made the day attractive to me [Ebenezer read on], for it were other- 
wise malodourous enow, was, that Burlingarhes bowells did seem to commence 
troubling him, for that he did still wander hither to yon in the barge, his face 
shewing ever more discomfort, and crost & recrost his leggs, and his want of 
composure was a tastie thing to watch. When that he s hd findlie let fie, I guess' d 
it w d prove a spectacle in sooth, by reason of his greate corpulencie, and the 
lengthie space he had held fast his reins . . " 

"Cruel man," said Burlingame, "to savor so the wretch's plight! And 
thou'rt reading with the same ungentle relish, Ebenl" 

"Beg pardon." Ebenezer smiled. " 'Tis that the wonder oft stirs my in- 
terest as I read. I fancy he is about to land on Dorset." 

And in a tone somewhat less partial he continued: 

"We made straightwaye for shoar, but c d by no means land, seeing a great 
bodie of Salvages appear from the woods, making everie signe of hostilitie. 
Whenas they sawe what manner of men we were, not having seen the like before, 
they ran as amaz'd from place to place, divers got into the tops of trees, and they 
were not sparing of there arrowes, nor the greatest passion they c d expresse of 
there anger. Long they shot, we still ryding at Anchor without there reatch mak- 
ing dl the signes of friendship we c*. But this was a hard matter, inasmuch as for 
everie cheerie wave of the hand I signdl'd them, some souldier or Gentkmen in 



[ 39 2 1 THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

my companie must needs let goe a fart, w u the Salvages did take as an affront, 
and threwe more arrowes. 

"Next day they, return' d t all unarm* d, and -with everie one a basket, and danc'd 
in a ring, to drawe us on shoar: but seeing there was naught in them save villainie, 
we discharg'd a volley of muskets chargd 'with pistoll shot, whereat they all lay 
tumbling on the grownd, creeping some one way, some another, into a greate clus- 
ter of reedes hard by, where there companies lay in Ambuscado. We waited, and 
it seeming they had left the place, we way'd & approach* d the shoar, for that all 
were eager to quitt for a time our barge. My thought was, to land as quietlie as 
possible, catch what food & fresh water we might, & then to flie to some more 
cordiall place: for that reason I did command, that whereas none among my 
crewe c? leave off his bumme-shotts, the w ch w d surelie give notice of our coming, 
then everie man, that felt the need on him, must thrust his buttockes by the 
board, so far as to the water, and thus immers'd, do what he w d . But the first to 
attempt this, one Anas Todkill a souldier, had no sooner wet his hammes, then 
he was stung athwart the tayle by a greate Sea-Nettle, a sort of white jellie-fish w ch 
doth occur in number in these waters, raysing upon his buttockes a red welt, and 
causing him payne. Whereafter, it was onely by dint of much intreatie, that I 
got any other man to do the same. As for Burlingame, the imminence of his 
coming defecation shew'd over all his face, and he durst not even speake, lest he 
expload; but the business of the Sea-Nettle did give him such a fright, he wrest? d 
with him selfe, to hold on but a minute more, when that we s hd be ashoar. 

"The prowe of our barge striking land (the w h was but reedes & mudd), I 
flung our anchor as far inland as I c d , and we did make readie to disembark. As 
-was my wont, I stepp f d up on the spritt, and w d have leapt ashoar, for that I still 
reserve the privilege of stepping first on everie new-found grownd, and this place 
was to be no exception. But Burlingame, in his passion to get off the vessell, to 
the end of jettisoning his filthie cargoe, did rudelie push me aside, for all I was his 
Captain and erst his Saviour, and assum'd the place ahead. I was on the instant 
wroth, at his impertinencie, and w* have layd hands on him, but that at the same 
moment a troup of Salvages leapt from some scrubbie growth near by, and 
snatch' d up the anchor pendant, purposing thereby to pull us high & drie, and 
capture us & our vessell as well With this turn of affaires, I was content that 
Burlingame s* d remayne in the van, to afford the rest of us the protection of his 
fatt carcase" 

"Ah God/' murmured Burlingame, "I fear my ancestor is in a pickle!" 
The proper strategic [Ebenezer continued! was to frye a charge of shot at the 
heathens to drive them loose, but they were nigh upon us, and I confesse we had 
not a musket loaded, for that I had thought the shoar vacated of Salvages. Then 
I might well have cut the pendant, and so rid us of them, but I was loath to 
sacrifice our anchor, that had serv'd us well in the storme just past, and w * we 
s doubtlesse need againe. Besides w\ the Salvages had appear 9 d on such a sud- 
den, I scarce had time to think aright. In fine, I did not choose either of these 
courses, but snatch* d our end of the pendant, and handing it back among the 
crewe, we pulTd in a line against the Salvages, to regayn our anchor & our liber- 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 393 ] 

tie. The Salvages, luckilie, were unarm 9 d, hoping to have us ashoar without difft- 
cultie, and thus we were not expos'd to there arrowes. Burlingame was too pos- 
sess 9 d by feare to aid us, but stood dl witlesse on the bow, and c* nowise step back 
into the vessell, for that dl of us were crowded behind, heaving on the rope. 

"The tugg-o'-war that then insued had been a sporting match, w n methinks 
we had won, were it that naught had interfear'd with the murtherous game. But 
the Salvages giving out with terrible whoops & hollowings, did so smite with 
fear this Burlingame, that at last he forewent entire the hold of his reins, and 
standing yet in our prowe like unto an uglie figure-head, he did let flie the treasure 
he had been those severdLl daies a-hoarding. It was my ill fortune to be hard be- 
hind him, and moreover, crowch'd down beneath his mightie bumme, so as to 
better brace my feet for pulling, and looking up at that instant of time, to see 
whether Burlingame was yet with us, I was in a trice beshitt, so much so, that I 
c d by no meanes see out of my eyes, or speake out of my mowth. Then the Sal- 
vages gave a great pull on the pendant, and the deck all bemufd, I did loose the 
purchase of my feet, and sayling betwixt Burlingames legs, did end face downe in 
the mud of the shoar. This same Burlingame thus knocked from off his bdlance, 
he fell after, and sat him square upon my head. 

"Directlie I freed my mowth of turd & mud, I hottow'd for my souldiers to 
load & fyre upon the Sdvages, but those same Sdvages did leap straightway upon 
me, and upon Burlingame as well, and imploying us to sheeld them & as 
hostages, demanded by signes the surrender of the companie. I order'd them to 
shoot & be damn f d, but they were loath to fyre, for jeare of hitting me, and so 
we did surrender our selves up to the Salvage, and were led prisoner to his town. 

"Thus was it, in a manner not my wont, I first touched the shoar of this scurvie 
place, whereof an ampler relation doth follow . . ." 

The final passages Ebenezer could scarcely read for laughing; even the 
captive priest could not restrain his mirth. For a moment Burlingame 
seemed not to realize that the recitation was done, but then he sat up 
quickly. 

"Is that the end?" 

" Tis the end of this portion/' Ebenezer sighed, wiping his eyes. 'Tfaith, 
such intrepidity! And by what a marvelous means my county was dis- 
covered!" 

"But God in Heav'n," cried Burlingame, "this is no stopping-place!" He 
snatched up the Journal to look for himself. "That wretched, hapless man- 
how I suffer for him! And I tell you, Eben; though I do not share his form, 
with every new episode I feel more certain Sir Henry is my forefather. I 
felt it when first I learnt of him from those ladies that I saved, and more so 
when I read his Privie JournalL How much more now, then, that we have 
him in Dorchester! He is halfway up the Chesapeake, is he not? And 'twas 
there that Captain Salmon fished me out!" 



[ 594 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

"It is a curious proximity, forsooth," Ebenezer allowed, "but nearly fifty 
years divide the two events, if I guess aright. And since we know John Smith 
returned anon to Jamestown, we've no proof Sir Henry was marooned be- 
hind." 

"You'd as well prove to this Jesuit that St. Joseph was a cuckold," 
Burlingame laughed. "I am as sure of my progenitor as he is of Christ's, 
though the exact line of descent we've yet to learn. 'Sheart, I'd give an arm 
to hear the finish of that tale!" 

These remarks aroused Father Smith's curiosity, and he entreated 
Burlingame to explain the mystery before departing. 

"Think not you'll see us go so soon!" Henry replied, but their attention 
to the history having dispelled the general ill will among the three, he went 
on to say that though his name was Timothy Mitchell he was but a foster 
child of Captain William Mitchell, and had reason to suspect that Sir Henry 
Burlingame was in some wise his ancestor. He then favored the priest with 
a full account of his researches and the fruit they had borne thus far, but 
despite this general cordiality with which the evening closed, he insisted 
that Father Smith be released only long enough to relieve himself under 
careful guard, after which the unfortunate priest was obliged to spend the 
night bound upright in his chair while the two visitors shared his bed. 

Nevertheless, before the candle had been extinguished for half an hour, 
Ebenezer was the only man in the cabin still awake. Never an easy sleeper, 
he was additionally distracted this night by the presences of his friend and 
his unwilling host specifically because the former (in sleep, it is to be pre- 
sumed) held his hand in a grip from which the poet was too embarrassed 
to pull free, and the latter snored; but more generally because he could not 
as yet reconcile and assimilate all the aspects of Burlingame's character to 
which he had been exposed, and because Father Smith's apparent connec- 
tion with the French and Indians, while it did not in itself reflect discredit 
on Lord Baltimore, nevertheless cast a new and complicated light upon 
that gentleman's endeavor. Nor were these troublesome reflections the sum 
of his diversion: never far from his mind was the image of Joan Toast, her 
flashing eyes and spirited limbs! Despite Burlingame's skepticism, Ebene- 
zer was confident of Susan Warren's veracity; he fully expected to find 
his beloved (for so he thought of Joan Toast) waiting for him when 
he arrived at Maiden, if not on the morrow then surely two days hence. 
When, after such a harrowing odyssey as hisand who knew what 
peregrinations of poor Joan's? they were at last reunited on his own 
estate-to-be, what would ensue? There was fuel to fire a poet's fancy! 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 395 ] 

In short, he could not sleep, and though as a rule he would have dwelt 
with his insomnia until dawn, Burlingame's handgrip made the contest less 
than equal. Finally, therefore, after an hour's unpleasantness, he summoned 
courage enough to leave the bed. From the wood-coals on the hearth he 
lit a new candle, and making free with the sleeping Jesuit's ink and quill, he 
spread out his ledger-book to ease himself with verse. 

But for the sober thoughts that filled his head he could find no fit articu- 
lation; what he composed, simply because he had previously entered on the 
opposite page certain notes upon the subject, was nothing more sublime 
or apropos than two score couplets having to do with the Salvage Indians 
of America. The feat afforded him no solace, but at least it wearied him 
through and through: when he could hold his eyes open no longer he blew 
out the candle, and leaving the bed to Burlingame, laid his head upon his 
ledger-book and slept. 



26: THE JOURNEY TO CAMBRIDGE, AND THE 
LAUREATE'S CONVERSATION BY THE WAY 



WHEN MORNING CAME, BURLINGAME FREED FATHER SMITH FROM HIS 

bonds and took it upon himself to prepare a breakfast while the priest 
exercised his aching limbs. All the while, however, he kept the Journal near 
at hand, and despite the Jesuit's disclaimer of any further intent to stop 
them, he insisted that the priest be bound again when the meal was finished 
and they were ready to depart, nor would he listen to Ebenezer's pleas for 
clemency. 

"You infer the rest of mankind from yourself/' he chided. "Because you 
would not try farther to obstruct me if you were in his position, you believe 
he would not either. To which I reply, my reasoning is identical to yours, 
and I would have me back the Journal ere you reached the Choptank 
River/' 

"But he will perish! 'Tis as much as murthering him!" 

"No such thing," scoffed Burlingame. "If he is a proper priest he will 
be missed at once by his parishioners, who will seek him out and have him 
loose ere midday. If not, they will repay neglect with neglect, as his God 
would have it or rather, his Order." 

This last, a reference to the priest's startling remark of the evening past, 



SOT-WEED FACTOR 

he directed with a smile to Father Smith, who sat impassively in his chair, 
and added, "We are obliged to you for bed and board, sir, and your 
unimpeachable Jerez. You may look to see John Coode in trouble soon, 
and know that you have done your part, albeit reluctantly." He ushered 
Ebenezer to the door. "Adieu, Father: when you commence your holy 
war, spare my friend here, who hath pled in your behalf. As for me, 
Monsieur Casteene himself could never find me. Ignatius vobiscum" 

"Er vobiscum diabolus" replied the priest. 

Thus they left, Ebenezer too ashamed to bid their host farewell, and, 
after saddling their horses, struck out along a road that, so Burlingame de- 
clared, curved southward in wide arc to the Choptank River ferry,, whence 
they planned to cross to Cambridge, inquire the whereabouts of William 
Smith, and then proceed to Maiden. It was a magnificent autumn day, 
brisk and bright, and whatever the Laureate's mood, Burlingame's was 
clearly buoyant. 

"One more portion of Smith's history to find!" he cried as their horses 
ambled down the road. "Only think on't: I may soon learn who I am!" 

"Let us hope this William Smith is less refractory," the poet replied. "One 
may acquire more guilt in learning who he is than the answer can atone 
for." 

Apparently chastened, Burlingame rode on some minutes in silence be- 
fore he tried again to begin a conversation. 

"Methinks Lord Baltimore was ill-advised on the character of that Jesuit, 
but a general cannot know all of his lieutenants. There is a saying among 
the Papists, Do not judge the entire priesthood by a priest. 'Tis to the point 
here, is't not?" 

"There is another from the Gospels," said Ebenezer. "By their fruits ye 
shall know them. . . ." 

"Thotfrt too severe, my friend!" Burlingame showed a measure of 
impatience. "Is't that you did not sleep enough last night?" 

The Laureate blushed. "Last night I had in mind some verses, and wrote 
them down lest I forget them." 

"Indeed! I'm pleased to heart; you have been too long away from your 
muse." 

The solicitude in his friend's voice removed,, at least for the time being, 
Ebenezer's perturbation, and, though he suspected that he was being 
humored, he smiled and with some shyness said, "Their subject is the salvage 
Indian, that I am much impressed by." 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 397 ] 

"Then out on't, I must hear them! I too am a great admirer of the 
salvage." 

After some hesitation Ebneezer consented, not especially because he 
thought Burlingame's eagerness was genuine, but rather because in the 
welter of conflicting sentiment he experienced towards his friend, and de- 
spite Burlingame' s occasional criticism of his verse, his poetic gift was the 
only ground that in his relations with his former tutor he felt he could 
stand upon firmly and without abashment. He fished out his notebook 
from the large pocket of his coat and, leaving his mare to walk without 
direction, opened to the freshly written couplets. 

" Twas a salvage we saw yesterday morning that prompted me," he ex- 
plained, "the one you showed me chasing after deer." 

"Indeed,, the brave Piscataway!" Burlingame recalled. "He was a hand- 
some buck, now, was he not? I rather envy any lass he sets his eye on!" 

"Here are the verses, whatever their worth," Ebenezer said quickly, and 
began to read, his voice jogging with the steps of his horse: 

"Scarce had I left the Captains Board 
And taking Horse, made Tracks toward 
The Chesapeake, -when, giving Chase 
To flighty Deer, a horrid Face 

Came into View: a Salvage 'twas 

We stay'd our Circumbendibus 

To look on Him, and He on u&. 

O'ercoming soon my first Surprize, 

I set myself to scrutinize 

His Visage mid, his Form exotick 

Barb'rous Air, and Dress erotick, 

His brawny Shoulders, greas'd and bare 

His Member, all devoid of Hair 

And swinging free, his painted Skin 

And naked Chest, inviting Sin 

With Ladies w/io, their Beauty faded, 

Husbands dead, or Pleasures jaded, 

Fly from Virtues narrow Way 

Into the Forest, there to lay 

With Salvages, to their Damnation 

Sinning by their Copulation, 

Lewdness, Lust, and Fornication, 

All at once . . " 

"Well writ!" cried Burlingame. "Save for your preachment at the last, 
'tis much the same sentiment as my own." He laughed. "I do suspect you 



[ 598 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

had more on your mind last night than just the heathen: all that love-talk 
makes me yearn for my sweet Portia!" 

"Stay," the poet cautioned at once. "Fall not into the vulgar error of 
the critics, that judge a work ere they know the whole of it. I go on to 
speculate whence came the Indian." 

"Your pardon," Burlingame said. "If the rest is excellent as the first, 
thou'rt a poet in sooth." 

Ebenezer flushed with pleasure and read on, somewhat more forcefully: 

'"Whence came this barb'rous Salvage Race, 
That wanders yet o'er MARYLANDS Face? 
Descend they all from those old Sires, 
Remarked by Plato and such like Liars 
From lost Atlantis, sunken yet 
Beneath the Ocean, cold and wet? 
Or is he wiser who ascribes 
Their Genesis to those ten Tribes 
Of luckless Jews, that broke away 
From Israel, and to this Day 
Have left no Traces, Signs, or Clews 
Are Salvages but beardless Jews? 
Or are they sprung, as some maintain, 
From that same jealous, incestuous Cain, 
Who with twin Sister fain had lay'd 
And whose own Brother anon he slay'd: 
Fleeing then Jehovah's Wrath 
Did wend his cursed, rambling Path 
To MARYLANDS Doorsill, there to hide 
In penance for his Fratricide, 
And hiding, found no livelier Sport 
Than siring Heathens, tall and short? 
Still others hold, these dark-skinn'd Folk 
Escap f d the Deluge all unsoak'd 
That carrfd off old Noahs Ark 
Upon its long and wat'ry Lark, 
And drcrwn'd all Manner of Men save Two: \ 
The Sailors in Old Noahs Crew ( 

(That after all were but a Few), ) 

And this same brawny Salvage Host, 
Who, safe behind fair MARYLANDS Coast, 
Saw other Mortals sink and die 
Whilst they remained both high and dry. 
Another Faction claims to trace 
The Hist'ry of this bare-Burmrid Race 
Back to Mankinds Pucelage, 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 399 ] 

That Ovid calls the Golden Age: 

When kindly Saturn rul'd the Roost. 

Their learned Fellows have deduc'd 

The Salvage Home to be that Garden 

Wherein three Sisters play'd at Warden 

Over Heras Golden Grove, 

Whose Apples were a Treasure-Trove: 

That Orchard robb'd by Hercules, 

The Garden of Hesperides; 

While other Scholards, no less wise, 

Uphold the Earthly Paradise 

Old Adams Home, and Eves to boot, 

Wherein they gorg'd forbidden Fruit 

To be the Source and Fountainhead 

Of Salvag'ry. Some, better read 

In Arthurs Tales, have settVd on 

The Blessed Isles of Avalon, 

And others say the fundamental 

Flavoring is Oriental, 

Or that mayhap ancient Viking, 

Finding MARYLAND to his liking, 

Stay'd, and fathered red-skinn'd Horsemen: 

One Part Salvage, Two Parts Norsemen. 

Others say the grand Ambitions 

Of the restless old Phoenicians 

Led 'that hardy Sailor Band 

To the Shores of MARYLAND, 

In Ships so cramm'd with Man and Beast 

No Room remain' d for Judge or Priest: 

There, with Lasses and Supplies, 

The Men commenced to colonize 

This foreign Shore in Manner dastard, 

All their Offspring being Bastard. 

Finally, if any Persons 

Unpersuaded by these Versions 

Of the Salvages Descent 

Should ask still for the Truth anent 

Their Origins why, such as these, 

That are so damned hard to please, 

I send to Mephistopheles, 

Who engendered in the Fires of Hell 

The Indians, and them as well!" 

"Now, that is all damned clever!" Burlingame exclaimed when Ebenezer 
had finished. "Whether 'twas the hardships of your crossing or a half year' s 



[ ^OO ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

added age, I swear thou'rt twice the poet you were in Plymouth. The lines 
on Cain I thought especially well-wrought." 

" Tis kind of you to praise the piece/ 7 Ebenezer said. "Haply 'twill be 
a part of the Marylandiad." 

"I would I could turn a verse so well! But say, while 'tis fresh in my 
mind, doth persons really rhyme with versions, and folk with soak'd?" 

"Indeed yes/' the poet replied. 

"But would it not be better/' Burlingame persisted cordially, "to rhyme 
versions with dispersions, say, and folk with soak? Of course, I am no poet." 

"One need not be a hen to judge an egg/' Ebenezer allowed. "The fact 
oft is, the rhymes you name are at once better and worse than mine: better, 
because they sound more nearly like the words they rhyme with; and worse, 
because such closeness is not the present fashion. Dispersion and version: 
'tis wanting in character, is't not? But person and version there is surprise, 
there is color, there is witl In fine, there is a perfect Hudibrastic." 

"Hudibrastic, is it? I have heard the folk in Locket's speak well of 
Hudibras, but I always thought it tedious myself. What is't you mean by 
Hudibrastic?" 

Ebenezer could scarcely believe that Burlingame was really ignorant of 
Hudibrastic rhyme or anything else, but so pleasant was the reversal of their 
usual roles that he found it easy to put by his skepticism. 

"A Hudibrastic rhyme," he explained, "is a rhyme that is close, but not 
just harmonious. Take the noun wagon; what would you rhyme with it?" 

"Why, now, let's see," Burlingame mused. "Methinks flagon would serve, 
or dragon, wouldn't you say?" 

"Not at all," smiled Ebenezer. " Tis too expected; 'tis what any poetaster 
might suggest no offense, you understand." 

"None whatever." 

"Nay, to wagon you must rhyme bag in, or sagging: almost, you see, but 
not quite. 

The Indians catt their wafry Wagon 
Canoe, a Vessel none can brag on. 

Wagon, brag on^do you follow me?" 

"I grasp the principle," Burlingame declared, "and I recall such rhymes 
as that in Hudibras; but I doubt me I could e'er apply it." ' 

"Why, of course you can! It wants but courage, Henry. Take quarrel, 
now: The Man and I commenced to quarrel What shall we rhyme with it?" 



THE SOT-WEED FACTOR [ 401 ] 

Burlingame pondered the problem for a while. "What would you say to 
snarl?" he ventured at last. 

"The Man and I commenc'd to quarrel: 
I to grumble, he to snarl" 

"The line is good/' replied the Laureate, "and bespeaks some wit. But 
the rhyme is humorless. Quarrel, snarl nay, 'tis too close." 

"Sorrel, then?" asked Burlingame, apparently warming to the sport. 

"The Man and I commenc'd to quarrel 
Who'd ride the Roan, and who the Sorrel" 

"E'en wittier!" the poet applauded. "Tis better than Tom Trent could 
pen, with Dick Merriweather to help him! But you've still no Hudibrastic. 
Quarrel, snarl; quarrel, sorrel." 

"I yield," said Burlingame. 

"Consider this, then: 

The Man and I commenc'd to quarrel 
Anent the Style of our Apparel. 

Quarrel, apparel: that is Hudibrastic." 

"Quarrel, appareir Burlingame made a wry face. "They clash and 

jingle!" 

''Precisely. The more the clash, the better the couplet/' 
"Aha, then!" cried the tutor. "What says my Laureate to this? 

The Man and I commenc'd to quarrel 
Who'd ride the Roan and -who the Dapple. 

Is't not a thing of beauty?"" 

"Quarrel and dapple?" Ebenezer exclaimed. 

"Doth it not jangle like the brassy bells of Hades?" 

"Nay, nay, 'twill never do!" Ebenezer shook his head firmly. "I had 
thought you'd caught the essence oft, but the words must needs have some 
proximity if they're to jangle. Quarrel and dapple are ships in different 
oceans: they cannot possibly collide, and a collision is what we seek." 

"Then try this," Burlingame suggested, not in the least daunted by the 
Laureate's chiding. 

"The Man and I commenc'd to quarrel 
Whose turn it was to ivoo the Barrel." 

"Barrel! Barrel, you say?" Ebenezer's face grew red. "What is this barrel? 
How would you use it?" 



[ AQ2 ] THE SOT-WEED FACTOR 

" Tis a Hudibrastic," replied Burlingame with a smile. "I'd use it to piss 
in." 

"B'm'faith, 'tis a pisser at that!" He laughed uncomfortably. "Tis the 
pissingest Hudibrastic ever I've heard!" 

'Will you hear more?" asked Burlingame. "I am a diligent student of 
jangling rhyme." 

"Piss on't," the poet declared. "Thy lesson's done!" 

"Nay, I am just grasping the spirit oft! Haply I'll take up versifying my- 
self someday, for't seems no backbreaking chore." 

"But you know the saying, Henry: A poet is born, not made." 

"Out on't!" Burlingame scoffed. "Were you not made Laureate ere you'd 
penned a proper verse? I'll wager I could rhyme with the cleverest, did I 
choose to put my nose to't." 

"No man knows better than I your various gifts," Ebenezer said in an 
injured tone. "Yet your true poet may have no other gift than verse." 

"Only try me," Burlingame challenged. "Name me some names, and hear 
me rhyme." 

"Very well, but there's more to verse than matching words. You must 
couple me a line to the line I fling you." 

"Fling away thy lines, and see what fine fish you hook on 'em!" 

"Stand fast," warned Ebenezer, "for Til start you with a hard one: Then 
did Sir Knight abandon Dwelling" 

"That is from Hudibras" Burlingame observed, "but I forget what Butler 
rhymed with't. Dwelling, dwelling ah, 'tis no chore at all: 

Then did Sir Knight abandon Dwelling, 
Which scarce repay 7 d the Work of Selling. 

"Too close," said Ebenezer. "Give us a Hudibrastic." 
"Your Hudibrastics will break my jaw! Howbeit, if 'tis a jangle you wish, 
I shall shudder the ears off you: 

Then did Sir Knight abandon Dwelling, 
Riding like a demon'd Hellion. 

Are you jarred?" 

"